Council puts heat on government to protect Royal Park amid sky rail plans

Council puts heat on government to protect Royal Park amid sky rail plans
Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne has released a Position Paper addressing its concerns surrounding the proposed level crossing project at Park St, which has the potential to impact the heritage-listed Royal Park.

The bold 33-page report, released in May, makes several requirements for the state government to commit to, including to “investigate all construction site options within the rail corridor” before requesting to use land at Royal Park to build a sky rail.

“Any occupation of ovals for construction purposes is unacceptable,” it said, while also imploring that before project works begin, consultation with the public “must be undertaken,” including with Royal Park sporting groups, community groups, residents, and other key stakeholders.

The report follows the state government announcing plans in September last year to remove eight level crossings along the Upfield rail line between Park St, Parkville, and Albion St, Brunswick by 2027.

Plans have yet to be unveiled and how or if the project would impact Royal Park. Parkville is on the municipal boundary between Merri-bek City Council and the City of Melbourne.

As reported by North West City News, the proposed Park St level crossing removal has been met with concern in the community, with many residents saying that the design must respect Royal Park’s landscape and environment settings, heritage status and visual amenity.

As a key stakeholder, the City of Melbourne has outlined several key issues regarding the project, which, at the time of publishing, were considered at the council’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting on May 16.

Councillors were expected to endorse the Position Paper, and to ask Lord Mayor Sally Capp to write to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and the Minister for Planning “advising council’s position and seek their response to the issues as set out in the Position Paper”.

The council’s Position Paper outlined in significant detail the importance of Royal Park and called for the state government to provide a detailed botanical field survey that “meets the satisfaction” of the City of Melbourne, which must be undertaken before any project works begin in the railway cutting within Royal Park among other measures.

“Reduce the footprint of the Upfield railway line within Royal Park and ensure infrastructure associated with the rail operations is not located within parkland,” the paper said.

However, while the paper acknowledged that a proposed “rail-over-road solution for the removal of the level crossing at Park St will provide a new opportunity to reduce fragmentation of Royal Park by providing a connection beneath the new viaduct (a bridge with arches),” it said “every effort must be made to retain and protect all trees within Royal Park from any construction activity that may impact their health and/or longevity”.

“Royal Park and the rail line cutting are both significant for Melbourne’s biodiversity,” the report outlined.

 

The park is home to extensive areas of native and indigenous vegetation including open woodland with trees, grassland, and wetland habitats. Important and/or rare species of flora and fauna may exist there; the project must investigate before works begin.

 

The City of Melbourne said it would also not support any proposed long-term closure of Park St.

The Parkville Gardens Residents’ Association said it had acknowledged the Position Paper and would be discussing the matter at a forthcoming meeting before commenting.

The Parkville Association’s president Rob Moore has maintained that while the removal of level crossings was welcomed, the visual impact of a sky rail at Park St would be a “major concern”, as would its impact on the flora and fauna in nearby parkland.

Melbourne Greens MP Ellen Sandell has thrown her support behind residents and the potential impact of a rail bridge on the local area, which she said was “so close to our beautiful Royal Park”.

Ms Sandell also pledged to seek answers and details from the Minister for Transport Infrastructure to make sure resident concerns were considered, and that community consultation conducted. •

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