Feasibility study completed on connection between Docklands and West Melbourne, but not released
A City of Melbourne meeting in West Melbourne last month heard that the council had already completed a feasibility study on a long-mooted plan to connect Docklands to West Melbourne via a bridge, which is yet to be publicly released.
The March 15 Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting at the West Melbourne Baptist Community Centre heard a number of updates on key projects being delivered by the council and the Department of Transport (DoT) as part of the North and West Melbourne and Docklands Transport and Amenity Program (TAP).
The program is a suite of streetscape improvement projects that will “help to alleviate and leverage some of the effects and benefits of the West Gate Tunnel Project” and is co-funded by the DoT and the council in a matched funding arrangement (up to $100 million over the next four years).
While updates were provided on projects including the Spencer St North Masterplan (between Latrobe St and Dynon Rd), of particular interest were projects which management said, “had already been delivered,” but not publicly disclosed.
This included the “Connecting Docklands to North Melbourne Feasibility Study”, which a council spokesperson since told Docklands News was undertaken in “2020-21 to determine where a bridge link between West Melbourne and Docklands may be placed.”
The pedestrian crossover proposed from Footscray Rd to North Melbourne Station (soon to be renamed West Melbourne Station) is considered a vital link to connecting Docklands’ adjunct western end with nearby North and West Melbourne.
In relation to this study and other “finished projects” yet to be publicly disclosed, Cr Rohan Leppert asked the council’s TAP program director Rob Moore at the March 15 meeting, “If they’re completed, can we see them?”
Mr Moore said all plans would soon “become public knowledge”. A council spokesperson told Docklands News that further information would be released “jointly by the Department of Transport and the City of Melbourne at a later date.”
While the West Melbourne Structure Plan proposed that the Docklands connection would come from Hawke St, Mr Moore said the feasibility study identified “real problems getting sufficient elevation.”
“We requested DoT to look at different alignments. By far and away the easiest is from Abbotsford St,” he said, adding that “the plus side of that is the two types of bridge links” that were possible, for both public and active forms of transport.
A connection from West Melbourne over the railyards to Docklands would provide significant benefit to those living and working in the NewQuay and Waterfront City precincts. Many Docklands Primary School students are also based in West Melbourne.
The council also used its first ever meeting held in West Melbourne to call on Minister for Planning Richard Wynne to sign off on an amendment that would progress the West Melbourne Structure Plan ahead of the State Election.
The West Melbourne Structure Plan – known as Planning Scheme Amendment C309 – outlines the vision for reimagining West Melbourne while respecting and leveraging its heritage and character as a distinct community separate from the central city.
That was the “overwhelming” sentiment shared following consultation with the West Melbourne community in 2019 when the City of Melbourne endorsed the vision, which sets out a number of exciting changes in postcode 3003.
Highlights include the creation of a new high street on Spencer St North and 10,000 sqm of new public open space throughout the area, which the plan breaks up into five distinct precincts – Adderley, Flagstaff, Historic Hilltop, Spencer and Station.
Due to not enough councillors for a quorum at a meeting on May 7, 2019, the amendment was ultimately endorsed as Amendment C385 for referral to the Minister for Planning by a special committee of council in April 2020.
A report tabled by the council’s management and discussed by councillors at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting held at the West Melbourne Baptist Community Centre on March 15 said officers had been working with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to “progress the amendment for ministerial consideration”.
Deputy chair of the council’s planning portfolio Cr Rohan Leppert described the government’s delay in signing off on the plans to Docklands News’s sister publication North West City News in February 2021 as “unnecessary” and “very frustrating”.
He said the plans were “basically just sitting on the Minister’s desk.”
“We worked hard to design a strong planning framework that the West Melbourne community and the property industry alike supported. It was endorsed by the Minister for Planning’s own planning panel of experts, and the final version was approved by the council’s delegated committee back in May 2020,” Cr Leppert said.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp will now write to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne to “invite a determination on Amendment C385 as a priority” after councillors voted unanimously in favour of the move at the FMC meeting.
The council’s planning chair Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece told the meeting he had spoken to Minister Wynne “today” and that he expected a decision to be made imminently •