By Cam Lucadou-Wells
After weeks of denial, Greater Dandenong Council has conceded that there are “questions”, “issues” and “concerns” over a controversial townhouse project in Keysborough.
Chief executive John Bennie made the concession after visiting the 452 Cheltenham Road site, in which the western dwellings stand about a metre from a truck access road into HomeCo shopping centre.
Residents had raised alarm about the lack of footpath along the access road to the HomeCo shopping centre, child-care centre and Cheltenham Road bus stop.
The estate’s corner property Lot 1 stands just a metre from a slip lane where trucks enter from an 80km/h roadway.
Mr Bennie stated in correspondence that he’d referred a “number of questions” to the council’s engineering director Paul Kearsley and planning director Jody Bosman.
Both departments had recently resisted public concerns.
A recent council review found the project met all permits and approvals.
Mr Bennie said he was awaiting a response from both departments.
“I also note – among the many issues that warrant some attention – that we have concerns to assess in two phases (at least) – the current construction phase and, the planned future phase.”
Mr Bennie’s visit and response were preceded by a withering email from ex-mayor Peter Brown.
The email warned councillors and officers faced the risk of “criminal negligence” and civil lawsuits if a resident or pedestrian was killed or injured at the intersection.
The intersection design was a “travesty of town planning exposing pedestrians and vehicle users to foreseeable, unreasonable, serious risk to life and limb”, Mr Brown wrote.
“This is a classic example of Council failure and it is not too late to remedy the defect (before) death or serious injury arises.”
Mr Brown told Star Journal that he’d “never seen anything like it” in his 14-year career as a former councillor.
“Since that (townhouse project) has gone up, I’ve looked around Melbourne at shops, offices, dwellings, apartments – they’ve all got setbacks and footpaths around them.
“This one doesn’t.”
He likened the intersection’s danger to a notorious truck route corner at City Road, Southbank.
The latter is getting a major overhaul from the State Government after five pedestrians were injured by a B-double truck cutting the corner.
The townhouses’ current position was in an amended permit approved by a council officer in 2018.
The application by developer Salter Brothers was neither advertised to the public or put in front of Greater Dandenong councillors.
Keysborough resident Dom Boccari was among a chorus of residents who had raised safety concerns a month ago.
He says trucks should instead access HomeCo from Springvale Road.
The current access road should be one-way and narrowed. This would create room for a footpath, guardrail and a buffer from dwellings.
“It’s a shame that we weren’t listened to earlier,” Mr Boccari said.
“Common sense should have come in.”
In recent weeks, the council stated there were “significant” numbers of footpaths through the estate to link Cheltenham Road and the homemaker centre.
It also noted a footpath from Cheltenham Road down the centre of the shopping centre car park.
The council ruled out the requirement of fences or barriers between the dwellings and the road.
It should not “suddenly impose itself with regards to building or putting in footpaths on private land”, engineering director Mr Kearsley recent told a council meeting.