The East Brunswick Village (EBV) is a 3.1 hectare site located between Nicholson Street and John Street (north-south) and Albert Street and Glenlyon Road (east-west). The website of developers Banco Group
say the project is “designed around the concept of an Urban Village, the development’s generous open spaces and amenities welcome use by residents and the community. Features include specialty shopping, a landscaped piazza, pedestrian mall, office spaces, ample parking for vehicles and bicycles.”
The initial phase of construction involves 223 apartments, a 24 hour Coles supermarket and Liquorland, four retail tenancies and a two level basement car park. Hundreds more apartments are proposed in further stages after the purchase of old factory sites to the north of existing works, including the old South Pacific Laundry and the Townley Drop Forge, which stopped operations last August. Construction of Stage I is underway at the main EBV site, and you can check out photos of the ongoing work on the website of the builders Hacer Group.
No rights to notification or review
The whole site is governed by a Development Plan Overlay (DPO11), pictured right, which sets the framework for more detail planning applications within the site. A striking feature of the planning overlay is that residents have no right to notification of new projects within the site – Clause 43.04-2 of DPO11 means that statutory public notice is exempt and third parties do not have the right to appeal Moreland Council’s decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for any planning permit application within the DPO11 area
With no rights to formal notification, it’s therefore up to South Ward councillors Lambros Tapinos, Mark Riley and Jess Dorney to keep residents informed about major changes to the project site. Their contacts are at the end of this newsletter.
Thousands of cars
The original traffic management plans for the site estimated that there will be nearly 10,000 new vehicle movements a day entering and leaving EBV from Glenlyon Road and Nicholson Street. In February 2018, VCAT approved a new development plan for the site which created more car parking spaces – changes to the basement car parking plan included an increase to the basement size and introduction of additional basement entry locations.
The primary access point to the precinct is via a signalised intersection in Nicholson Street, opposite Sumner Street, that will allow cars to exit from the basement car parks via “Main Street” directly onto Nicholson Street. There is another proposed ‘left in/left out’ entry/exit from the basement car park on Nicholson Street, opposite Peers Street (see diagram below).
However Nicholson Street hosts the number 96 tram route which is the busiest in Melbourne. Original designs for the EBV exit proposed a tram super stop near the intersection of Nicholson Street and Sumner Street. This original location would have discouraged cars entering or exiting the EBV from Sumner Street and limited the use of other adjoining residential streets for rat running.
This year, VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria (PTV) have changed the location of the tram stops, which will now be located north of Albert Street and at Glenlyon Road, rather than the middle of the block between these two streets (Great to see that people using public transport will have further to walk, while cars get privileged access in and out of the site!)
With the new plan for tram stops, there will be traffic lights at the intersection of Nicholson and Sumner streets. Residents are concerned that this opens the way for people entering and exiting the EBV to rat run along Sumner, Peers and Rupert streets, to avoid congestion at the main entrance. Instead, they want the street closed off. There is also concern about extra traffic using (north-south) Noel Street, which hosts the East Brunswick Kindergarten and Childcare Centre at Fisher Reserve.
Protecting Fleming Park
The problem of traffic management has also been evident on the western side of Nicholson Street. Residents of Glenlyon Road, John Street and Albert Street have been campaigning for more than a decade to get Council to implement traffic calming around EBV and Fleming Park.
In 2012, the EBV developers Banco Group took Moreland Council to VCAT, to successfully override Council’s policies on affordable housing and traffic management in this area. One astounding feature of this 2012 VCAT ruling was the tribunal’s refusal to force the developer to contribute to traffic management in surrounding residential streets, apart from “one hump in John Street and an intersection threshold at Glenlyon Road/John Street and John Street/Albert Street.”
VCAT said there are too many nearby apartment projects in Albert Street pumping cars into the residential street to allocate responsibility to any one developer! The 2012 VCAT ruling noted:
“The additional traffic volumes on John Street are a direct result of this DP [development project]. The panel anticipated that works would be undertaken on local roads to minimise amenity impacts on residential areas. Accordingly, additional works on John Street are reasonable, given they result directly and solely from this DP. We cannot say the same about the works proposed on Albert Street. A number of developments will increase traffic volumes on Albert Street and it is unreasonable to require works only of this DP. We expect the Council will need to consider other approaches to ensure its objectives for Albert Street are met.”
This 2012 decision sparked a campaign by Brunswick Residents Network to get Moreland Council to develop plans for traffic management in the area around Fleming Park and the EBV site. Proposals from traffic consultants GTA were incorporated in the 2013 Brunswick Integrated Transport Strategy (BITS). However none of the key BITS recommendations for this area have yet been implemented!
Council’s failure to implement plans to protect pedestrians, cyclists, children and the elderly accessing Fleming Park is a significant problem. This park is a crucial piece of green open space in Brunswick East, used by football players, dog walkers, children using the playground and people of all ages getting some exercise. The main north-south East Brunswick Shimmy bicycle path cuts through Fleming Park and along John Street beside the EBV project.
Council continually encourages walking and cycling and promotes Fleming Park as a jewel that must be protected for the thousands of people moving into this corner of the municipality. This year, Council just completed a Fleming Park “master plan refresh” with proposals for $11 million of spending on park facilities. Yet this ‘refresh’ process did not look at traffic in adjoining streets, or how people would actually get safely to the park!
The 2013 BITS Priority Implementation Plan proposed that there should be a shared roadway alongside the park in both Albert Street and Victoria Street, slowing traffic to a crawl to improve safety for people walking or cycling to use the park facilities. Nothing has happened to implement this proposal.
Using dodgy traffic numbers
The developers’ EBV Amended Integrated Transport Plan (dated 27 March 2018) uses 2008 figures for traffic flows in Nicholson Street, and 2011 figures for traffic flows in Albert and John Streets. (The 2011 data was only collected on weekdays, as if no one will go shopping on Saturdays, when traffic in Brunswick East is already a nightmare).
However Moreland Council has more recent data from 2014 and 2018 which show higher rates of vehicle movement than those used by EBV traffic consultants Cardno.
Why do Moreland councillors and Council traffic planners allow Banco and their consultants to get away with using outdated data when more recent traffic counts are available? Shouldn’t Moreland Council be asking the developers to pay for updated traffic counting to justify their plans?
New project for John Street
Existing rat-running along Albert Street is already a major problem, but now there is a new development site on the corner of Albert and John Streets. (Aerial view at right.)
Within the (unreasonably short) time allocated under state planning law, Council planning staff could not complete their review of the permit application for the new apartment project on land fronting Albert and John Streets. The developers then took the project to VCAT in November 2018, in the case of Roden Street Pty Ltd v Moreland CC  VCAT 1767
During the VCAT hearing, Moreland Council claimed that this area is supposed to be “a pedestrian friendly built form”. However the new project means that two car park entrances into Elm Grove will push cars into a narrow street that Council has described as “a predominantly pedestrian no-through road” leading out of the EBV site onto Albert Street.
Even as they approved the project, VCAT had the grace to acknowledge that “the plans as currently drawn appear to indicate vehicle access ways that are possibly larger than required.”
The EBV developers, VicRoads and other players hope to start building the Nicholson Street tram stops over the summer, but residents to the east of Nicholson Street have called for a delay to construction until the traffic management issues in surrounding residential streets have been resolved.
At their 12 December 2018 meeting, Moreland councillors resolved to:
1. Request officers continue to communicate with the East Brunswick Village development and VicRoads to understand construction timeframes for the signalised intersection at Main Street/Nicholson Street/Sumner Street in Brunswick East and request that no works progress until Council resolves the best traffic outcome for the local community.
2. Conduct an eight week public consultation process including a community information and workshop session, review of the traffic report, online feedback and mail-out to the affected streets and surrounding area, which clearly identifies the traffic issue at hand. The mail-out will be provided to all residents in the surrounding area including Sumner Street, Noel Street, Rupert Street, Peers Street and the section of Nicholson Street between Albert and Glenlyon Streets in Brunswick East.
3. Receives [sic] a report with options to mitigate any traffic impacts to local streets in the area resulting from the East Brunswick Village development and the future signalisation of the Main Street/Nicholson Street/Sumner Street intersection at the March 2019 or April 2019 Council meeting. Reference is to be made to public transport, bike and pedestrian access and options to prevent dangerous rat-running and congestion overflow on the residential streets, and near kindergartens, churches and schools including the option of installing bollards and road closures.
4. In resolving the BITS works program for 2019/20 Council officers provide consideration to the Fleming Park/Central Lygon & East Brunswick Village Projects (including the East Brunswick Shimmy) identified in BITS in light of the East Brunswick Village Development having now commenced, including holding a public forum to inform the local community of the works program. The public forum should also consider how best to establish an ongoing dialogue with the community surrounding the East Brunswick Village & Fleming Park
Council will soon publicise the consultation which should be launched over the summer while everyone is at the beach. We encourage people to contribute to this, highlighting the need for action now on traffic management, before Coles gets to set the agenda!
So what can be done?
Brunswick Residents Network believes that a one-off consultation is not sufficient, given that the EBV developers have repeatedly changed their plans. We want Council to extend its community engagement beyond a once-off update.
- Council should bite the bullet and develop – and implement – a comprehensive traffic plan for residential streets in this whole area, including Fleming Park. Much of the work was already done in 2013 for the BITS, and this could be easily updated.
- Moreland Council should create an ongoing working group involving the three South Ward Councillors, Council staff and representatives of the Moreland Bicycle Users Group, the Brunswick Residents Network, and local residents from streets surrounding Fleming Park and the East Brunswick Village.
- The working group should develop a comprehensive traffic management plan for this area in Brunswick East, incorporating proposals for the East Brunswick shimmy, streets abutting Fleming Park, and residential streets around the East Brunswick Village project.
- The working group should develop a timeline for implementation, to begin in 2019, and a budget for these works.
- Moreland Council should prioritise funding for these activities in the 2019-20 budget, drawing in part on the $40 million Public Resort and Recreation Land Fund (PRRLF). Despite the level of apartment construction underway in the Brunswick Activity Centre and adjoining streets, there is no requirement for Council to spend the developers’ open space contributions in the suburb where they were collected. Major projects like EBV in Brunswick are subsidising open space and sporting grounds in the northern wards.
Over the next 20 years, the number of residential dwellings in Brunswick East is set to grow by 60%, while in Brunswick, it’s 30%. Traffic is already an issue and will only get worse until the shift to public transport and active transport accelerates. Despite this, the EBV prioritises car movements over other modes of transport. It’s time to sort this out.