Battle lines drawn on Beach Road

The Bay Trail - Cameron Howe
The Bay Trail: do not narrow Beach Road protestors with Cr Tamsin Bearsley on the steps of the City of Kingston. Photo supplied.

Cameron Howe, The Mordialloc Chronicle
January 24, 2018

A plan to preserve roadside vegetation for the shared pathway known as the Bay Trail, which abuts Beach Road, has seen the RACV and VicRoads form opposing positions in the face of community safety fears and controversy.

The $3.2 million dollar proposal is to construct a path from Mentone Life Saving Club to Rennison Street, Parkdale. Eighty-two per cent of responses to a Council survey objected to the design that threatens to encroach on road space. However councillors have forged ahead with the design that would narrow the width of lanes to 12.7 metres, down from an average of 14 metres in some sections on Beach Road. It is expected that there would also be a loss of over 100 car spaces when verge parking is considered.

Under the Road Management Act 2004, VicRoads is required to ensure that any proposals by another authority that affect an arterial road do not adversely impact access or safety. VicRoads’ Director for Metro South East, Aidan McGann stated that, “VicRoads has determined Kingston City Council’s functional layout design for the proposed Bay Trail meets the necessary safety, and access requirements for a project proposal that affects an arterial road.”

Conversely RACV’s Manager of Mobility Advocacy, Dave Jones in a statement said that, “RACV agrees with there being an off-road path for recreational riders, but it shouldn’t be achieved by narrowing Beach Road.”

“RACV opposes the plan to narrow Beach Road, which will force riders and drivers closer together, when a safety campaign is underway about the need for drivers to give riders more room. A more sensible solution is to continue the recently built path further south from Mentone Life Saving Club to Mordialloc, providing indented parking where it is necessary, and two traffic lanes,” Mr Jones said.

Whilst the two largest bodies representing motorists have locked horns, so has the community with councillors. Councillors Brownlees, Gledhill, Hua and Bearsley oppose the current design, forming the minority, and just like Parliament, the two cohorts sit on opposing sides of the room.

Environmental conservationist and councillor, Rosemary West cements the majority voting block’s ability to pass motions, including the contentious Bay Trail design. West has previously stated that the plan would prioritise the preservation of coastal vegetation and has said that the loss of parking is negligible. “The plan will save as much as possible of the one hectare of coastal vegetation,” she said in a Facebook post.

In contrast, the 5,000 signatories of a petition rejecting the design believe that every centimetre counts when it comes to drawing vehicles and cyclists closer together. The Amy Gillett Foundation, with a mission to reduce cyclist road trauma, has been actively campaigning for vehicles to remain a metre away from cyclists, something that campaigners argue is problematic as it is. Locals are also concerned that residential streets would potentially cater to parking losses resulting from the design.

Campaigner Robyn Nolan said: “The communication has not been transparent, and when there has been consultation, councillors have pushed their own agenda.”

According to Mr McGann, VicRoads did advise the City of Kingston of the community sensitivities around the project and has recommended that they undertake further consultation. However, at a December council meeting, Mayor Staikos stated that he had requested the planning meeting with objectors to be held on January 11, which resulted in the decision being criticised by fellow councillors for being held at a time when the community would be disengaged.

Councillors Geoff Gledhill and Ron Brownlees have signed statutory declarations claiming that in a conversation, the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donellan stated that he would not “go against the wishes of 82 per cent of the community” who objected to the design.

Earlier last year Mordialloc MP Tim Richardson asked Mr Donellan to halt the plan in response to community feedback, however he and Mr Donellan have more recently been silent on the issue. The offices of Luke Donellan and Tim Richardson did not respond to questions to clarify their position despite indicating that they would.

Campaigners are expected to challenge the decision legally if all other options are exhausted. “The community are definitely not going away on this issue,” Mrs Nolan said. Meanwhile the RACV also continues to maintain its stance in opposition to the current plans.

The application for the project’s planning permit was approved at a Council meeting on January 24 and the project is expected to now proceed to the detailed design stage.

Photo: supplied

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