• Contractor now known but not yet announced
• VicRoads in meetings with objectors for Manningham permit
• Nillumbik permit still stalled
WORKS HAVE still not commenced on the bridge expansion originally due to begin in April with completion scheduled for before the start of the next bushfire season.
VicRoads has not formally announced the contractor for these works and has not replied to questions from the Diary on this or when the work will be starting.
However, the Diary has ascertained the contract has been awarded to VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd for $4.265M
VEC is part of the Downer group of companies and is a respected civil engineering design and construction company specialising in bridges.
Some confusion still remains on the start date for works, as planning permits have still not been approved by Manningham or Nillumbik.
William Nottle, Senior Structures Engineer at VicRoads Metro North West, stated: “At this stage, it is unlikely any works will commence until permits are granted.
“VicRoads will never conduct any work on site (or established a site for that matter) before obtaining appropriate planning approval.
“We have recently suspended site activity with our contractor in order to resolve the current planning issues,” he said.
However, in somewhat of a contradiction he continued: “In keeping with the project schedule to complete the works ahead of the next bush fire season, we have initiated works that do not require planning approval”.
Manningham received objections to the proposed planning permit from seven individuals and from the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA) .
VicRoads had scheduled a series of separate meetings with each objector on May 23 to hear and discuss their concerns.
WCA had filed a well-considered objection on two main grounds.
Firstly the applicant (a Mr Richard Francis of Abzeco Ltd) is not the owner of the land, the application is not signed by the owner of the land, and therefore the whole application is invalid and must be thrown out.
Secondly the applicant has failed to adequately address the requirements of Heritage Overlay Schedules applicable to the area.
As mentioned in the May issue, the Warrandyte Historical Society and the WCA had joined forces with a view to establishing an Urban Design Advisory Panel (UDAP) to evaluate, discuss and attempt to reach agreement with VicRoads on the materials to be used in the construction, to ensure the heritage values of the area at the south side of the bridge were considered and preserved.
They had expressed concern because the historical road alignment is being changed and widened, and the use of barriers and guardrails — similar to those recently the subject of protests in Kangaroo Ground — fences and the ugly use of grey concrete and plastic handrails do not comply with the heritage guidelines required by Manningham.
We understand at that meeting VicRoads had agreed with WCA’s proposal that this UDAP be set up.
However, the terms of reference and scope have yet to be agreed.
Most of the individual objectors spoke to the Diary on condition of anonymity.
Three objectors wanted the two tall trees at the southern end of the bridge to be retained; one suggested this could be done by making the cantilevered pathway go around the tree on the west side, and fill be avoided at the base of the tree on the east side with the new off-ramp being shored up with pylons or a wall constructed.
VicRoads agreed to investigate the practicality and costs associated with such additional works, but had some doubts on the ability of the budget to accommodate the increased costs involved.
One resident tabled the VicRoads-produced artist’s impression of the south side as published in the March edition and asked how the four tall trees shown in this impression were to be provided.
VicRoads confirmed they would not be there “It’s only an artist’s impression”; which the objector suggested was deliberately misleading.
As part of the discussion it became evident that, in addition to the new cantilevered shared pathway on the west side, the bridge structure will also be extended slightly out on the east side to partly move that footpath outwards.
It was also discovered the plans provide for considerable fill material on the south east off-ramp side and it was not clear how this was to be revegetated.
An objector wanted the whole issue of tree retention, flora, fauna and reforestation to be included in the scope of the UDAP, but VicRoads was adamant the UDAP restrict itself only to the construction materials.
“How can you have a design panel which does not look at the total design; the final ‘look’ of the whole project is what matters most?” asked one resident.
A recurring theme in the objectors’ submissions was they did not want the development to proceed at all on various grounds including this was a band-aid solution to a wider problem, they suggested the decision should be delayed until the route for the North East Link had been decided and the traffic flow through Warrandyte had been remodelled and the original modelling of evacuation times and improvements to daily traffic flow was fundamentally flawed.
A resident of Ringwood-Warrandyte road pointed to the stationary queues of traffic outside their house and dreaded to think how bad this would become when further traffic was attracted to the area and red traffic lights north of the bridge would cause gridlock back around the roundabout at the bridge causing even longer queues along Ringwood-Warrandyte Road in the evening peak period.
Also raised was concern the materials used and the extra fenced-off pathways might completely or partially block the view of the Yarra for passengers in vehicles.
Many comments were made on the lack of concern for flora and fauna, these included:
• “I object to the removal of indigenous eucalyptus polyanthemus, eucalyptus goniocalyx and, bursaria spinosa trees and shrub on the north east embankment of Yarra Street.”
• “The Southern Mahogany nearby should also be retained.”
• “Eucalyptus polyanthemus is already in severe decline in Warrandyte — all large trees should be retained for habitat, ecology reasons, mitigating against climate change.”
• “These works will greatly downgrade the significant river scenery.”
• “Construction of the turning lane will impact on fauna habitat and corridors, including breeding wombats and swamp wallabies.”
• “A canopy rope bridge for arboreal fauna must be included, as must a pipe to enable wombats to cross under Kangaroo Ground Road at the north end of the Bridge.”
• “Kookaburras, wood ducks and sulphur crested cockatoos use hollows in other beautiful large eucalyptus trees a few metres below the embankment nearer the river.”
• “These trees will also be at risk from the proposed works due to root damage, changes to the water table, possible introduction of harmful fungi, etc.”
• “All the trees in the vicinity of Warrandyte Bridge require protection — measures must be taken to minimize impact.”
• “The character of unique and historic Warrandyte, prized by artists past and present is irreplaceable.”
• “To what extent have the Wurundjeri Tribe Council Elders been consulted about these works?”
• “So much lost — heritage, wildlife safety, access and habitat, pedestrian safety at an already difficult intersection, liveability through increased traffic volumes — for little, if any, gain.”
A number of these comments, whilst being very valid, are outside the scope of Manningham to determine in direct relation to the planning laws.
However WCA’s first and primary objection on the grounds the application as submitted is invalid in law will be difficult for Manningham to disprove and it is hard to see how they could grant a permit to an invalid applicant.
We await with interest to see if Manningham planners will hold off making a recommendation to councillors until the UDAP has been formed and its scope agreed and findings released.
We asked WCA to comment on their meeting with VicRoads and formation of the UDAP, but they declined to comment.
North side of the bridge
In terms of progress not much has happened.
The planning permit application was lodged with Nillumbik on April 3.
A site inspection was carried out by the council planners on April 27 following which a letter was sent to VicRoads requesting more information, Nillumbik are still awaiting VicRoads’ reply.
When that is to hand the matter will progress to the “advertised” status, which will involve a notice being posted and the public then given 14 days in which to make submissions or objections.
We await further progress with interest.