Unfortunately no Defend the Yarra members were able to attend the meeting on 15th October in person, but examined the plans (here: http://www.delwp.vic.gov.au/planning/planning-applications/walmer-street-bridge-and-plaza) and have received emailed comments from readers who did attend.
In order to post this in a timely manner we need to cap contributions at this point, with thanks to those who sent information/opinions. If you attended, and wish to add more comments please do so below in the comments section (NB comments do not appear immediately).
Points raised by attendees who have sent us their comments follow. Our analysis of the plans is below them.
At the end of the meeting it was moved, seconded and unanimously carried that the Minister should form a Working Group to properly consider the many issues raised.
The decision is now up to the Minister, who carries the responsibility for making a decision which benefits the majority for the future, or is a major mistake benefiting only a private developer, for which future generations will pay.
- There was no explanation of WHY SALTA was given unconditional rights to what is a frankly unbelievable give-away of public assets. It was explicitly stated that this question was not to be a part of the proceedings. NOTHING but the two alternatives presented by SALTA for “Walmer Plaza” would be discussed.
- The point was raised that the PDZ Schedule 1 :Victoria Street East Precinct, makes reference to vehicles being able to enter the developments on Walmer Street. It does not state that the entrances and exits should be via car tunnels on crown land. The inference is that the entrance and exit ramps should be on land owned by the developer.
- The two proposals for consideration included car park access tunnels utilising almost half of Walmer Street, which is the main factor contributing to loss of bicycle and pedestrian access. The relevant planning schemes DO NOT SAY THAT THERE SHOULD BE ACCESS TUNNELS OCCUPYING A LARGE PORTION OF THE CROWN LAND OF WALMER STREET. The Yarra Planning Scheme clause 22.11-1 provides that it is policy that “Principal vehicular access to the Yarra Gardens precinct and Walmer Street sites should be provided via the Walmer Street intersection and Flockhart Street to minimise impacts on Victoria Street”
- The Yarra Planning Scheme clause 22.11-1 also has a policy that “driveway crossovers and service entries along Victoria Street should be avoided if access to properties can be made through other properties” SALTA could easily comply with this policy, as its proposed car parks connect with car parks at the Green Square site, and could have access to Flockhart Street via Shamrock Street. There is no need for car tunnels in Walmer St at all.
Further, the proposed location of the car park access tunnels is outside the area covered by Precinct 1 Yarra Gardens on the precinct map (clause 20) of Schedule 1 to the Priority Development Zone. Therefore there appears to be no planning basis for having carpark access tunnels in Walmer Street.
In the interests of transparency and scrutiny, it would be helpful for the Minister to release to the public all the details of the original agreement made by former minister Justin Madden with SALTA Developments. Just because the developer has made an assumption/statement that they have the right to locate their tunnels on crown land does not make it legally correct. Were the car tunnels an afterthought? This needs to be publicly scrutinised.
- Some people did not receive notifications, or links to the plans even though they are on the DELWP mailing list.
- No 3D drawings were available either before or at the meeting, although the plans show that they exist.
- There were no gradient drawings.
- The drawings provided are misleading as they do not make clear that a large portion of the path design, and the restaurant space, is UNDER the building. This portion of the building is shown only in dotted lines, when in fact it is solid to ten stories above the space as below:
- The point was also made about how oppressive the area under the overhang will be for all users, as natural light will be blocked.
- The entire area available for the paths is only 22m of steeply sloping bank. The drawings flatten out the area, making it appear much larger and more usable than is the case.
- A cycling safety expert raised the following points : 1) that there are no lateral clearance provisions on the path designs and no requirement shown for fences on the paths. These will be required due to the steepness of the drop-off on all the paths. Those fences themselves present a possibly dangerous impediment for cyclists; 2) the support pillars for the building at 607-627 are minimised on the plans, but will present a considerable hazard due to size and hard surface; 3) the 3.1 m path widths meet the current minimum standard, but will be inadequate in future, and will not meet the minimum of new standards now under discussion, and 4) the 1:14 gradients connecting the footbridge to Walmer Street are completely unacceptable.
- A cycling user group representative stated that the entire plan is extremely inadequate for a major junction on the principle bicycle network in Melbourne. It is currently used by 1,000s of cyclists and that number will only increase. It is very unsuitable for shared use, but particularly for cyclists, and should have been designed by road engineers. 1) Access through the cafe is very problematic and dangerous. 2) There is no catering for cyclists travelling east on to the MYT, which is the major commuter route. 3)The paths and switchbacks include a 270 degree turn to go east. It is possible that this is not even cyclable. 4) Cyclist, pedestrian and car interaction is still a major problem. 5)The area was declared a shared space without consideration for problems of conflict between users; 6) no consultations or studies were done; 7) lessons should be learned from the disaster of Southbank. 8)There is a question of responsibility and liability for accidents and injuries caused by poor design. Should rate-payers and tax-payers have to pay future costs for design decisions made against the majority community interest by a private developer ?
Our comments from the plans:
- The “Plaza” is still 2m higher.
- The footbridge has a 2m ramp up to Walmer St on one plan. While it partially replaces the stairs, this creates its own set of new problems as it ignores direct access for the eastern side, increases the slope for pedestrians, adds to the speed at which cyclists enter the bridge, and creates a new congestion point.
- The stairs are still there, moved to the side on one plan.
- The current simple and efficient bike ramp which allows voluntary separation of pedestrians and cyclists is still gone. This bike ramp also allows immediate access to cyclists travelling east on the MYT.
- The switchbacks are still there, with the dangerous one from upper path to middle path still containing the most dangerous shared, two-way, 180 degree switchback.
- The detour still runs awkwardly under the building, next to the restaurant space. (Plans do not show the reality of the building over the path). Pillars not shown clearly will create a danger for cyclists. It is still the only way for cyclists to reach the MYT unless they carry their bike down stairs.
- The paths are still two-way shared use paths, with no data offered on the amount of users expected to compete for space. After SALTA’s amendments to comply with the minimum 3.1m the paths now barely meet requirements, but in the near future will be woefully inadequate.
- The car tunnels are still there.
- The crossings in front of the car tunnels are still dangerous, even if the tunnels are moved to the side closest to 647-649. (Possibly contrary to VCAT ruling/PDZ provisions)
- The “Plaza” still looks exactly like the concrete roof for a carpark, which it is. There will still only be a maximum of 8m space for all competing users even if the tunnels are moved to one side. (Possibly contrary to VCAT ruling/PDZ provisions)
- The space is still not user-friendly, and it is still unwelcoming for all users, but especially for the disabled or elderly, or people with small children or dogs. It will be windy, partially shaded, and made up purely of hard surfaces.
- The area is still a wind tunnel with wind speeds predicted to be at a level uncomfortable for walking for an able-bodied person (from SALTAs own data)
- The entire space and the paths are still unfit for the amount of competing users. Developer still has not considered the readily available user statistics from sources such as Bicycle Network.
- There will still be difficulties for emergency access/responders. No paths are wider than 3.1m. The proposed ramp from the footbridge to Walmer Street actually reduces access options for emergencies or maintenance of paths below.
- The issues of the height, bulk, environmental impacts of light pollution, impacts on flora and fauna, and the diminution of community amenity which the developments would cause to the Yarra Corridor and the river itself, remain unaddressed yet again.