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Docklands’ response to MSS

28 Sep 2010

The Docklands Community Association has responded to the City of Melbourne’s request for feedback on its draft Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS).  An edited version of the response is presented below:

Walking

Pedestrian pathways are too limited.  There are no dedicated paths to access the Flagstaff Gardens, for example, or other parts of the CBD nor is there any along Footscray Rd. See also our recommendation below for provision of a footbridge over Footscray Rd.  We should also point out that wooden decking on promenades, whilst attractive, is causing two problems needing review – one is people slipping on it when wet; the other being warping and some splintering of planks causing tripping.

Bicycles

There is much criticism in Docklands of dual usage paths for both bicycles and pedestrians, and we would recommend they be separated. In any event they should be clearly marked and signs erected warning cyclists not to speed. This should be policed.

Car parks

We do not agree with the proposed discouraging of new commercial car parks because of the severe lack of street parking. Commercial car parks are essential for visitors and to draw people to the area. They need to be easily accessible and affordable. Vacant lots currently being used for street level parking are gradually being built on, therefore further reducing parking availability. At the same time the population continues to grow. Free bus shuttles to the waterfront and venues should be considered.

Freight transport

The Docklands community, both residential and commercial, is overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of a rail bridge and supports a tunnel. A freight rail bridge would be unsightly, would create unacceptable noise and would hamper the movementof masted vessels. This view has been expressed previously.

Skyline

The lack of soul in Docklands is partly due to the unsightly bland exterior design of low cost high-rise buildings. There is no co-ordination or standards. Whilst setting standards may be difficult, due to lack of precedent, this should not preclude some guidelines being developed and issued. For example, some colour instead of dull grey concrete facades (but not in the form of Lego-like attachments), some relief in sheer wall facades and some angular structures on otherwise flat top roofs. Contrast

Docklands’ present “dog’s breakfast” with the multitude of elegant lightly-coloured buildings on the Gold Coast with manicured gardens and incidentally less wind tunnel effect. Docklands is supposed to be a major attractive waterside development but is falling far short in its appearance.

Wind tunnels

The public is highly critical of the wind problem in Docklands. The problem has two causes – exposed areas and wind tunnels due to buildings and their positioning. We recommend that wind protection measures be provided for both new and existing buildings and exposed areas. Measures could include erection of canopies affixed to buildings over footpaths and installation of barriers and wind breaks at ground level.

Public open space

Lack of land for parks and open space is also a major problem. There is no park of any size. A “Second Decade” leaflet from VicUrban  states that 98 per cent of developable land has been contracted out to developers, which doesn’t leave much.  A small, out of the way patch under Bolte Bridge is hardly ideal for the purpose. Existing small green patches here and there such as the so-called Docklands Park (some 100 by 200 m) are token areas. Residents are saying that the vacant grassed block in Bourke St west opposite Ericssons should be retained as open parkland but it has been contracted to Bovis Lend Lease for building on. Perhaps some land should be resumed from development.

To help offset the inadequate open space in Docklands, we recommend that public open space and parkland be reserved and made available in the E-Gate area after the railways are removed.
We also recommend that a footbridge be constructed across Footscray Rd to enable access to that area and to Dudley St as crossing Footscray Rd on foot is too dangerous.

Community facilities

Amenities that authorities have mooted for Docklands include a new community centre incorporating a library, an indoor court stadium, community boating hub and primary school. This is very good. There is, however, no indicated timing for the construction of these amenities which, we believe, are overdue.

We would also like the ferry service between NewQuay and Federation Square terminals to be resumed and recommend that the western end of Central Pier have a public park with an iconic theme.

Maintenance

Whilst not familiar with the formal scope of the planning scheme, we would expect that planning in its broadest sense would include maintenance.

Within this context, we would suggest that council should plan to introduce a requirement that owners of existing buildings in a dilapidated condition, such as worn-off paintwork, be requested to repair it.

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