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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Let's plan NOW for a Drysdale bypass!

There has been a lot of interest recently in the proposed Drysdale bypass, but without careful planning it could take away trade as it takes away traffic.

Local papers have reported recently that the case for a Drysdale bypass has been strengthened by the closure of the Corio tip and the subsequent increase in the number of garbage trucks travelling through Drysdale. In the Geelong Advertiser (14 December), Tom Bennett wrote, 'From Monday January 2, 90 per cent of Geelong's rubbish will end up at the Drysdale landfill on the Bellarine Peninsula. It means about 30 large semi-trailer sized vehicles will be funnelled through central Drysdale en route to the tip each week.'

Similarly, the front page story in The Echo (15 December) said, 'Calls for a Drysdale bypass road are getting louder as the town braces for an influx of Geelong garbage trucks in the new year.' The story quoted local ward councillor Rod Macdonald: 'the state government must make a commitment to the concept of a bypass'; and Bellarine MP Lisa Neville: 'The addition of garbage trucks ... places added pressure on municipal and state authorities to commit to the bypass.'

The proposed bypass was also a focus of discussions in recent council-run workshops to sketch the future of Drysdale town centre. At those workshops, local people said that a bypass would make Drysdale a safer and more pleasant place to live, work and visit. However, they also said that a bypass could either strengthen or weaken the local economy, depending on how it was implemented.

A good idea?
A Drysdale bypass will offer a quicker alternative route to semi-trailers and trucks travelling through the town, making it a safer and more pleasant place. However, it will offer convenience of this alternative route to all traffic - semi-trailers, trucks, vans, cars, bikes and motor bikes. The makes it less likely that their drivers will stop - and shop - in Drysdale.

So despite the growing support for a Drysdale bypass, it won't necessarily - and by itself - improve the quality of life in the town. As it takes away traffic, it could also take away trade and weaken the local economy. However, with careful planning and preparation, a Drysdale bypass could not just relieve traffic but also boost the local economy.

A bypass is like a coin with two sides. On one side of the coin is a town in decline because travellers are - literally - bypassing it; on the other side is a town that is booming because it has acted to increase its attractiveness to locals and travellers alike. Planning for a Drysdale bypass could be a defence against potential loss of trade, but the bypass could also be an 'excuse' to positively rethink the town to make it even more attractive, vibrant and successful than it is already.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A new future for central Drysdale?

Local people, planning consultants and council officers sketched a new future for central Drysdale at a two-day 'Inquiry By Design' workshop on December 7-8 at SpringDale neighbourhood centre in Drysdale High Street.

Day one of the workshop started with an invitation to participants to identify what they thought were the good and bad features of the current town centre, especially in light of the town's increasing population. In the next session, participants suggested features of the town centre that needed to change - and those that should remain. People raised a variety of issues, including traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, the 'look and feel' of the town centre, poor public transport and the need to offer the expanding population a variety of jobs, rather than rely solely on shops and tourism. On day two, the consultants spent the morning collating all the material from day one's discussions into a presentation to the participants, which ran from 3.30-5.00 p.m.

Some new ideas
The consultants' presentation created great interest. It contained several radical proposals, including creating a permanent shelter for a farmers' market in the space between the side entrance of the Safeways complex and the rank of shops opposite; making the roundabout in front of the Drysdale Hotel pedestrian-controlled and diffusing traffic away from it by creating new linking roads (e.g. between Collins Street and Murradoc Road); ensuring that new buildings faced their streets, rather than back onto them; and making any expansion of Safeways contingent on the development of a 'civic centre' facing the green and rotunda. There were also proposals to make Murradoc Road more attractive, e.g. by creating a service road in front of the current light industrial units, landscaping both sides of the road, installing proper footpaths and encouraging 'al fresco' dining near to the Aldi site.

... and the bypass??
The council had asked the consultants to create a draft 'Masterplan' for the town centre, thereby excluding any considertion of the proposed Drysdale bypass. However, local people at the workshop insisted that any discussion about the town centre should include the issue of the bypass.

A Drysdale bypass would address many of the town's current problems, including traffic congestion and pedestrian safety. The need for a bypass has been increased significantly by the closure of the rubbish tip at Corio, sending still more heavy trucks carrying rubbish from the rest of Geelong through the town to the Drysdale tip. Also, a bypass at Murradoc Road's eastern end would offer very good transport links to Geelong, increasing the likelyhood that new businesses would want to establish themselves in Murradoc Road.

What next?
The consultants will collate their presentation and participants' responses into a detailed report, which they will submit to the City of Greater Geelong by the end of this year. In early 2012, the council will publish the report and its response to it as a draft 'Masterplan' for Drysdale town centre, on which it will invite comments from the community. After that public consultation, the council will publish a final 'Masterplan' for the town centre, which it will then seek to have included in the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme.

While the workshop was a success in its own terms, it was organised in a way made it almost impossible for certain types of people to attend:
People at work could only attend if they could afford to take take one or two days off work AND get permission to do so. This might not be a problem for middle class professionals, but it certainly would be for anyone else at work. Local business owners faced the same problem, of course.
Parents of young children couldn't easily set aside two days for a workshop and, even if they could, there were no child care arrangements in place to enable them to do so.
Parents of school-aged children couldn't necessarily arrange for someone to take their children to and from their school and, anyway, might not want their children returning to an empty house.
School students could only attend if they were able to take one or two days off school. This might be an attractive option to the students (!), but the absence of any young people at the workshop showed that it wasn't necessarily feasible.

DCSCA officers at the workshop did their best to think about what people in each of those absent groups might want to say about the future of the twon centre and to present those views effectively. However, nothing is as good as people presenting their own views and it's unfortunate that the workshop was arranged in such a way that they were unable to do so.

Lessons learned?
It's never possible to make arrangements that suit everybody, of course. However, DCSCA has criticised the council consistently for its inflexible approach to public consultation and has offered many positive suggestions for improvement, which have been ignored. With a little thought, the organisers of this workshop could have offered local people a variety of ways in which to participate, rather than having to turn up each day. This workshop offered many lessons concerning public participation - it remains to be seen whether the council applies those lessons in the next stage of this particular consultation process - inviting public comment on the draft 'Masterplan'.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thunderous reception for G21 'Listening Post' in Drysdale

Thunderstorms rolling around the Bellarine Peninsula on the morning of Saturday December 10 didn't stop local people making their voices heard at G21's Drysdale 'listening post'.

The 'listening post' was open between 12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. opposite the side entrance to the Safeway complex. Despite the thunderstorms, lots of people dropped in to say how they want the region to develop. The listening post's two G21 staff did say, however, that it was sometimes hard to hear people over the drumming of the rain on the roof!

Drysdale's listening post was one of thirty held during November and December by the G21 organisation, which is a formal alliance of governments, businesses and communities across five councils - Greater Geelong, Colac-Otway, Surf Coast, Golden Plains and Queenscliff. The listening posts are part of broader consultations to shape a draft G21 Regional Growth Plan, which will be released for public comment in April 2012.

Regional Growth - 3 options
The Growth Plan is intended to manage the pressures on land-use, environment, employment, infrastructure and services accompanying population growth in the G21 region, which is expected to grow from the current 290,000 to around 500,000 by 2050. The current G21 consultations invite people to comment on three possible options for the region's growth:
1. 'Growing in' would consolidate and build on existing towns and villages, creating denser population centres. Less natural and agricultural land would be 'developed', enabling the region to retain and highlight its natural features.

2. 'Shared growth' would consolidate growth in existing dedicated growth zones (Drysdale, Ocean Grove and Lara) AND create a Geelong-Colac 'growth corridor', with towns like Birregurra and Inverleigh spreading outwards onto existing natural and agricultural land.

3. 'Growing out' would create new towns and communities in 'greenfield' sites (natural and agricultural land) along existing major transport routes.

The G21 staff at Drysdale's listening post said that most of their visitors had preferred either the 'Growing in' or 'Shared growth' options, or some combination of the two. Local people were concerned that the 'Growing in' option could lead to higher-rise buildings in inappropriate locations, including small country towns like Drysdale & Clifton Springs. They were very concerned that the 'Growing out' option would mean wall-to-wall buildings that would rob the region (and especially the Belarine Peninsula) of its unique characteristics.

DCSCA's response to the options
DCSCA is a local community association and so our focus is generally on the issues that matter to people in our local community. However, many of those 'local' issues are 'regional' ones, too and so our views on local issues can often be generalised into views on regional ones, as follows:
1. Integrated growth would link population growth with planned growth in local economies and transport, preventing regional towns and communities becoming mere 'dormitories' for central Geelong or Melbourne.
2. Sustainable growth would improve the quality and reach of public transport (including, perhaps, a Bellarine light rail system), reducing traffic congestion and pollution significantly
3. Democratic growth would actively encourage the growth and strength of local citizenship by encouraging local communities to participate in the design and enactment of growth plans AND giving them the resources (time, space, money and access to expertise) with which to do so, rather than relying exclusively on the good will of 'the usual suspects'.

* People can have their say at an online forum at
There is also a G21 Regional Growth Plan website: