Walmer Street Action Group/ Collingwood & Abbotsford Residents Association/Yarra

Riverkeeper
11 July 2016
The Hon Richard Wynne, MP
Minister for Planning
Parliament House
1 Spring Street
Melbourne 3000
Dear Minister
Walmer Street/Bridge Precinct – Opportunity for Government Led Future Design Enhancing Public
Amenity
We are writing on behalf of the Walmer Street Action Group (WSAG), the Collingwood and
Abbotsford Residents Association (CARA) and the Yarra Riverkeeper to request that you act
immediately to ensure government leadership in shaping the future of the Walmer Street Bridge
precinct. We consider you can best demonstrate this leadership by asking the Office of the Victorian
Government Architect (OVGA) to convene a Design Review Panel to recommend the optimal long
term approach to the reconfiguration of the Walmer Street Bridge precinct. This vital Yarra River
crossing point and intersection includes the bridge itself, the “land bridge” to Walmer/Young Streets
on the Kew side, Walmer Street on the Abbottsford side of the river, the intersection with the City
Trail and the riparian environment on both sides of the river.
Community consultation meetings with the developer in relation to its proposed construction of
“Walmer Street Plaza” and the surrounding publicly owned land, facilitated by your office, will take
place shortly. It is clear, however, that the focus on an unsatisfactory design proposal for the “Plaza”
misses a broader issue of the public interest in delivering an integrated treatment of an
environmentally sensitive, heavily trafficked and increasingly unsafe intersection of mixed
pedestrian and cycling use. Conflicting uses by cyclists and pedestrians will only be made worse by
the proposed developments on both sides of Walmer Street.
This is perfectly illustrated by the attached letter from Boroondara Councillor Healey to Kew
residents. Importantly, this addresses the dangerous and structurally unsafe condition of the “land
bridge” on the Kew side of the river, and indicates that the Council is seeking a $1.5m VicRoads grant
for reconstruction of this element of the crossing. A decision on the grant is apparently expected by
the end of calendar 2016.
The Council’s proposal to do something about the increasingly dangerous Kew side of the crossing is,
of itself, welcome. It is, however, highly unsatisfactory that no government agency is currently
charged with taking a strategic, long term approach to redesigning the bridge and its environs to
deliver a result that will be fit for purpose from a longer term community and environmental
perspective. As things stand, it is the developer who is driving a partial design solution attuned to its
commercial interests. Yarra and Boroondara Councils, as well as community groups, have lodged
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fundamental concerns about the overall development with you, in your role as decision-maker, for
the Priority Development Zone, including in relation to the so-called “Plaza”. There is also currently a
real prospect that uninterrupted user access to the crossing will be at major risk from both the
construction work on Walmer “Plaza” and the land bridge.
Clearly, the forthcoming consultation meetings cannot address these much bigger issues: the
developer has neither the power nor the commercial interest in the overall configuration of the
Walmer Street precinct. The complex and contested nature of competing interests here calls for
government leadership. This must include an arms-length and expert evaluation of current and
future growth in the use of the area and options that best meet the long term needs of both the
environment and all users. This evaluation capability is readily available to you in the OVGA, via the
Victorian Design Review Panel. To quote from the relevant web page: “As part of the OVGA services
'The Victorian Design Review Panel' (VDRP) provides independent and authoritative advice to
government and statutory decision makers across Victoria about the design of significant
development proposals.” (Source:http://www.ovga.vic.gov.au/victorian-design-review-panel.html)
Such a panel was successfully convened to consider how best to redesign the interface between
Darebin Creek and the Yarra Trail, drawing on detailed consultations and input from all stakeholder
interests.
On its merits, the current and strongly growing significance of the Walmer Street crossing/Yarra Trail
intersection demands a similar level of analysis, option development and government leadership,
rather than being driven by narrow developer interests and timetables. We would, therefore, ask
that you immediately request the Victorian Government Architect to convene the VDRP to consider
the future design and redevelopment of this strategic set of public assets.
This would provide the opportunity for you to ensure redevelopment in this important area serves
long term community and environmental needs. As well as crafting an effective outcome in relation
to this critical development issue, it would also help better inform how best to protect and preserve
the Yarra River corridor in the face of unrelenting population and development pressures.
Your decision to commission a VDRP panel would provide assurance to the community that
developer priorities are not being allowed to override the long term community interest in the
carefully considered, sustainable development of our urban environment. We, therefore, await your
response to this letter with great interest and concern.
Given their major interests in this issue, we are sending copies of this letter to local MPs and
relevant government agencies and the Councillors and officers of Yarra and Boroondara Councils.
Yours sincerely

Mike Waller/Trevor Flett
Co-Presidents
Walmer Street Action Group

Dr Virginia Dods
Chair
Collingwood & Abbotsford
Residents Association
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Andrew Kelly
Yarra Riverkeeper

Copy List
Adam Bandt, MP
Tim Smith, MP
Ms Jill Garner, Victorian
Government Architect
Mr John Merritt, CEO, VicRoads

Cr Phillip Vlahogiannis
Ms Vijaya Vaidyanath, CEO
Ms Mary Osman, Manager
Statutory Planning

City of Yarra Council:
Cr Roberto Colanzi (Mayor)
Cr Jackie Fristacky
Cr Sam Gaylard
Cr Geoff Barbour
Cr Stephen Jolly
Cr Amanda Stone
Cr Misha Coleman
Cr Simon Huggins

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City of Boroondara:
Cr Jim Parke (Mayor)
Cr Phillip Healey
Mr Phillip Storer, CEO
Mr J Hondrakis, Manager Traffic
& Transport
Ms Clare Davey, Coordinator
Transport Management