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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who'll take the lead on local traffic?

On 30 April, seventy people attended a public meeting at the SpringDale Neighbourhood Centre in Drysdale about 'local traffic management'.

Local traffic management is a continuing cause of local concern and it generated lively discussion at the meeting, much of it concerning Jetty Road (including the proposed service station at the roundabout) and the Drysdale bypass. The meeting also discussed the long-awaited Regional Sports Precinct and the contentious issue of local ward boundaries and representation.

The meeting was the latest in a regular three-monthly series of Public Meetings on community issues organised by the Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association (DCSCA).

Taking the lead on traffic
People at the meeting felt strongly that the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) should address community concerns about traffic in Drysdale. At the very least, it should conduct a scoping study into traffic congestion in Drysdale, but it shows no sign of doing one. Consequently, in January 2014, DCSCA submitted a proposal for such a scoping study as part of the CoGG’s Community Concepts scheme. CoGG is due to respond in mid-May.

People also felt that Drysdale’s traffic problems are part of traffic management on the Bellarine Peninsula as a whole, so VicRoads should consult all the local communities about its plans.

Jetty Road
Jetty Road is the sole exit for traffic from western Drysdale and Clifton Springs; and now it has to also carry traffic from the new housing estates in the Jetty Road Growth Area. The consequent increase in traffic is starting to overload the road already; and this overloading will be made worse by the decision to block off Coryule Road part-way through the estate. CoGG planners are out of touch with the area’s traffic management needs, as shown by the Coryule Road decision and their failure to give a starting date for a new road from Portarlington Road into and out of the estates. DCSCA will lobby local councillors, VicRoads and relevant CoGG officers to keep Coryule Road open to through traffic.

People at the meeting disapproved strongly of the proposal to install traffic lights where the Rail Trail crosses Jetty Road. There was agreement that while the crossing should be made safe, traffic lights are unwarranted. The community has not requested these lights and it was felt that the money would be much better spent on issues that it has requested. For example, as many people on the Rail Trail cross Princess Street as cross Jetty Road and the train crossing in Princess Street needs lights and a boom gate. Nearby residents have seen some very close calls and fear that the increasing frequency of the local train service makes a fatal accident more likely. It was agreed unanimously that DCSCA should try to stop the proposed traffic lights, including lobbying local councillors, VicRoads and relevant CoGG officers.

Jetty Road – the proposed Caltex service station
There was unanimous opposition to this proposal and DCSCA was applauded for trying to stop the council approving it. People argued that the service station would increase traffic congestion at the roundabout still further. They also complained that the council’s consultation process was so inadequate that most people were unaware of the proposal. For example, the signs on the property were barely legible from the road; only adjacent residents were informed, although the proposal affects everyone; the consultation period was too short; and consultation was in a holiday period when many people couldn’t comment because they couldn’t know anything about it.

The council’s Development Hearings Panel has received 17 written responses so far to the proposal – all of them opposing it. The Panel dismissed objectors’ many concerns and questions as either ‘irrelevant’ or ‘wrong’. The Panel has deferred its decision on the application until the applicant has conducted appropriate studies of the service station’s likely lighting and noise impacts on local residents - items that it should have included in its original application.

DCSCA will send a copy of a standard letter objecting to the proposed service station to its e-mail contacts, encouraging them to send a version of the letter to the council while there’s still time to stop the approval. In the meantime, DCSCA members are listing risks that the Panel appears not to have considered, such as the service station’s Jetty Road entry/exit, the danger to cyclists, the proximity to the Jetty Road roundabout and the danger of run-off into the Jetty Road spring and into Lake Lorne.

Drysdale bypass
People at the meeting felt that if VicRoads had attended, they could have heard for themselves the community’s concerns and its ideas about the best design and location for the bypass. Further, VicRoads could explain how they take their decision as to what sort of bypass should be built and when.

Lisa Neville (state MP for Bellarine) attended the meeting and said that the bypass could cost around $60m, but VicRoads would have to do a lot of traffic modelling before it decides on a starting date. For example, it would need to ensure that the proposed bypass – now forty years old - is still the best solution to traffic congestion in Drysdale. She added that VicRoads had promised in December 2013 to produce a Victorian Integrated Traffic Model that would include the Drysdale bypass, but the report hasn’t been released. She has asked the Roads Minister several times to release the report, with no response. Ron Nelson (Liberal candidate for Bellarine and CoGG councillor for Deakin ward), who also attended, offered to become involved. DCSCA will distribute all its available information to local councillors, VicRoads and relevant CoGG officers; and will ask each of them to lobby the state government to release the Victorian Integrated Traffic Model immediately.
Village Walk
DCSCA will ask CoGG to ask the owners of Village Walk to remove the new roadside barriers (½ metre out from each kerb), as they effectively reduce vehicles’ room to turn by 1 metre.
Regional Sports Precinct
The 2011 Masterplan for the Regional Sports Precinct in Grubb Road was updated recently. In the process, the cost of the Precinct increased by several million dollars. Paul Rawson (Bellarine Soccer Club), Ross Deeath (Drysdale Football Club), Rob Malcolm (Drysdale Cricket Club) and Matt Green (DCSCA) have formed a steering group to lobby all levels of government for work on the Sports Precinct to begin immediately; and for the Precinct Masterplan to be amended to include a swimming pool. The steering group has said that the Precinct should be in this year’s state budget and, if it isn’t, that it will inevitably become a local issue in the state elections in November.

Electoral boundaries
Parts of Clifton Springs and Drysdale are in different council wards from each other. The community can ask the Victorian Electoral Commission to consider Drysdale/Clifton Springs as a “Community of Interest” that should be declared a ward in its own right, with its own councillor.

This led to further discussion about CoGG’s failure to fund and support the Bellarine Peninsula adequately. One response to this failure would be to recreate the Bellarine Shire Council, which was made part of the then-new City of Greater Geelong in the 1993 council amalgamations. The idea was applauded warmly, but it was agreed that more work must be done to make it a practicable proposal.

Where next?
DCSCA officers said that they will continue to negotiate with state politicians, local councillors, VicRoads and relevant CoGG officers over the issues raised at the Public Meeting; and will arrange a further Public Meeting with them about these issues. It will aim to hold such a meeting as soon as possible and to publicise it around our towns.

It was felt that meetings such as this are often the only times that residents get to talk to their local councillor/s. The meeting felt that DCSCA should hold Public Meetings every 3 months with the local councilors in attendance so that councilors can inform local people of latest developments affecting them and listen to their views.

As well as Lisa Neville and Ron Nelson, DCSCA had also invited local councillors Lindsay Ellis (who couldn’t attend) and Rod MacDonald (who didn’t reply), VicRoads and McHarry’s bus company. William Tieppo (VicRoads) couldn’t attend but has agreed to meet the DCSCA Committee; and David Doig (McHarry’s) couldn’t attend, but had met three members of the DCSCA committee earlier that day.

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