It was extremely disturbing to read ‘Marsh bypass still on the table’ (MN 24 Sept 2019).
Back in 2008 VicRoads revealed plans for a Woolpack Road extension. It was clear that such a plan involved a significant impact on our Avenue of Honour (the longest intact, living war memorial and elm avenue in the world). It would also carve through extensive market garden lands (part of Victoria’s “bread-basket”).
Not long after, the Avenue was heritage listed. Opposition to the plan gathered: large numbers of locals, plus Melbournians, Victorians, Australians, even people from overseas, the National Trust, veterans groups, various political organisations, unions, historical and botanical groups, and so on.
Importantly, numerous relatives of those commemorated on the Avenue protested. Bacchus Marsh’s largest petition and biggest protest rally signalled the level of opposition to this “plan”.
Between 2010 and 2012, Heritage Victoria ruled against the plan, the Heritage Council ruled 2:1 for the plan, after a record three-day hearing, but with a strong dissenting vote.
The Planning Minister then “called in” the decision for review by departmental experts.
On Australia Day 2012 the plan was rejected on the grounds of its damaging effects on our extraordinary war memorial. I have no doubt environmental impacts were also considered.
As a result, the Avenue of Honour became a centrepiece for WWI centenary commemorations 2014-18. It remains our iconic landmark and glorious town entrance.
The Avenue of Honour Preservation Group had always pushed for the Halletts Way extension as the solution for “local traffic congestion”.
This was reinforced to Council after the 2012 decision, along with suggestions for dealing with truck through-traffic in our town.
Now we are presented with even more damaging and suspect “bypass” plans, from a seemingly obsessed and inflexible VicRoads.
This will again lead to division and dissent for years to come, unless wiser heads prevail.
VicRoads’ plans are horrendously damaging. They are hugely expensive, damaging, and will take years to progress.
Alternatives have been presented to VicRoads, by local experts, and by business groups.
Suggestions that avoid destruction to the Avenue of Honour and market gardens. Cheaper options. Alternatives that can be rolled out sooner. Options that address trucking issues. Options that also help plan for our town’s expansion, help impending local traffic issues.
Instead we get the same old plans that will forever and irretrievably scar our town. Why?
One last point. Did you know that these “plans” involve a four-lane highway across the market gardens? Did you know that this would require an even bigger roundabout cutting our Avenue of Honour in two? So, these “plans” are even more destructive than the last lot.
Imagine driving, riding or walking along the Avenue of Honour after that massive load of bitumen and concrete has been deposited. Our “cathedral of green” and beautiful market garden vista desecrated.
I urge everyone to oppose this awful proposal. Alternatives are available. Pass on our riches to our children and grandchildren.