Victoria’s largest road project, the $15.8 billion North East Link is another step closer with the majority of recommendations from an independent planning panel endorsed by the Victorian Minister for Planning.
Following community feedback received through the Environment Effects Statement, several improvements have been adopted.
However, five of the 29 recommendations have been rejected and are causing concern for the communities involved.
The minister has not supported recommendations to pursue an extended bored tunnel option northwards to the vicinity of Grimshaw Street. This rejected recommendation included a review of the need for the Lower Plenty Road interchange to significantly reduce ecological impacts on the Banyule Creek. Additionally it recommended the review to significantly reduce social noise, air quality, business, landscape and visual impacts on the community along Greensborough Road and the Watsonia Neighbourhood Activity Centre.
The recommendation to exclude the Borlase Reserve as a tunnel boring machine launch and retrieval site was also not fully supported.
Other recommendations lacking the Victorian Minister for Planning’s support include the designation of the Simpson Barracks as a ‘no-go zone’ due to potential environmental impacts and further suggestions for future planning.
A Victorian Government statement said the Minister for Planning assessed extending the North East Link tunnels an extra two kilometres north and determined the potential impacts – which include an extra 18 months or more of construction disruptions and significant impacts for two local schools – which did not outweigh the benefits.
The Banyule, Boroondara and Whitehorse councils submitted a joint response on the project’s Environment Effects Statement (EES), in June, citing significant and unacceptable risks to the ecological integrity of open spaces and a disastrous impact on homes, local roads and community facilities.
The councils expressed a media release from June that they share a universal view that the North East Link project, taken as a whole, cannot be justified in its current form.
Since the Minister for Planning’s rejection of some recommendations the councils have also released a statement saying they are currently considering the reports, including seeking advice regarding their options.
“The councils are disappointed with the decision and will continue to work to achieve the best outcomes for our communities,” the statement said.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said, “we’ll continue to work with the local community as we get on with this vital project, which will take trucks off local streets, cut travel times and create thousands of jobs.”
Construction on the North East Link is due to start in 2020 following planning approvals.