BRN Working Group meeting
The BRN Working Group will meet on Thursday 14 March to plan coming activities.
If you are able to offer some time to volunteer to help organise our campaigns, and support our work, please get in contact. Our work includes organising meetings, leafleting and letter boxing, graphic design and publicity, and research; on planning, greening Brunswick and traffic management.
WHEN: 6.30PM, Thursday 14 March
WHERE: Depends on numbers so please let us know ASAP
QUERIES: Call Nic on 0421 840 100
Improving local transport
Ten minute trains on the Upfield line
On Saturday 16 March, the Upfield Transport Alliance will hold a public rally, calling for improved services on the Upfield rail line, through the duplication of the line north of Gowrie station.
Pictured above: Alliance members sign up supporters at the Sydney Road Street Party last week
We encourage you to join this community rally – Brunswick Residents Network is a member of the Upfield Transport Alliance, initiated last year at a meeting of community groups and individuals along the Upfield line from Parkville to Craigieburn.
Track duplication on the Upfield Line is a key priority. The single track between Gowrie and Upfield is a key reason limiting service frequency and reliability on the Upfield Line. While city loop capacity is also an issue, the single track is a more important priority to be addressed: passengers joining the train in Brunswick face overcrowding, but rail duplication is vital to allow for trains to run every 10 minutes.
Longer term objectives of the campaign include extension of the train line through Roxburgh Park to Craigieburn and eventually Wallan; building a station at Camp Road, Campbellfield; and extension of the Upfield Bike Path (check here for information on the campaign to improve the bike path)
With the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) keen to start the Moreland Road and Bell Street Level Crossing removals, a primary aim is to push for concurrent work to be done duplicating the line to Upfield. The State Government previously brought forward the Mernda line extension, providing an example of the reprioritisation we are demanding. We want the track duplication and upgrade much sooner than the existing schedule of 15 or more years.
Join us at 11am on Saturday 16 March, to demand more frequent, regular train service for all. Wherever you live along the Upfield train corridor make sure you’re in Fawkner at 11am (Bonwick Street shops, corner Jukes Road) to join the procession to the train station (to get there in time, take the 10.18 train north from Jewell Station!).
If you can’t make it on the day, there is a petition to send to the Legislative Assembly which you can find here on the State Parliament website
If you can help out with leafleting, publicity or outreach, contact Sheridan on 0422 330 639; Sue 0413 377 978; or Meagan 0419 353 954.
WHAT: Rally for 10 minute trains on the Upfield Line
WHEN: Saturday 16 March 2019, 11am
WHERE: Meet at Bonwick Street shops, corner Jukes Road, Fawkner
Route 96 upgrade
Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has launched a community consultation for the design of new tram stops on Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, for the Route 96 tramline. Stops 23, 24 and 25 – between Brunswick Road and Blyth Street – are scheduled to be upgraded in May 2019.
This Wednesday 6 March, you can drop in and have a chat with the Route 96 upgrade team and have your questions answered. The PTV team will also share the new tram stop designs and project details – you might want to ask them what they are doing to protect bicycle riders in Nicholson Street and controlling rat running in adjoining streets.
WHAT: Route 96 tram update
WHEN: Wednesday 6 March, 5.30–8.30pm, Drop in any time.
WHERE: St Brigid’s Hall, 378 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy North (Catch the #96 tram to stop 18)
PTV link: ptv.vic.gov.au/route96upgrade
Community to stop EBV rat running
As we reported in our December 2018 newsletter, residents living east of Nicholson Street are organising for better traffic management for vehicles leaving the vast East Brunswick Village (EBV) project. Many residents are urging Moreland Council to block access to Sumner, Peers and Rupert streets for vehicles leaving the EBV site.
The original plans for the project proposed a tram super stop near the intersection of Nicholson Street and Sumner Street, directly opposite the main exit from EBV. This original location would have limited cars entering or exiting the EBV from using Sumner Street and other adjoining residential streets for rat running.
This year, however, VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria (PTV) have changed the location of the tram stops, which will now be located at Glenlyon Road and north of Albert Street, rather than the middle of the block between those two streets. Despite Moreland’s stated commitment to active transport, people using public transport to travel to EBV 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 exuding the EBV to rat run along Sumner, Peers, Rupert streets, to avoid congestion at the main entrance.
Come along this Thursday, 7 March between 6–9 PM to have your say about traffic management for residential streets adjoining the EBV project. There is an opportunity to meet with council staff and discuss options. A motion will also go to the next Moreland Council meeting on 13 March, so come along and show your support.
WHAT: Moreland Council consultation on Nicholson Street traffic management
WHEN: Thursday 7 March, 6-9 PM.
WHERE: community hall, Serbian Orthodox Church, 42a Nicholson Street, Fitzroy North (corner Glenlyon Road and Nicholson Street).
Connectivity and the Route 506 bus
The Melbourne on Transit blog is recommended reading for public transport nerds. Last month they featured a useful investigation of the connections between bus route 506 and trams in Brunswick, noting: “the problem is not that the east-west crosstown routes don’t exist. They do. As buses. It’s just that none of them are sufficiently frequent over enough of the day to provide a useful network grid. Consequently buses simply do not feature in the mental maps and daily lives of most Brunswick residents, even those who frequently use trams.”
Moreland local travel map
Public Transport Victoria has revamped its website, but some of the best bits are buried deeper than most people can bother searching. Here’s a link to the Moreland page on their “classic” (i.e.old) PTV site – it’s worth bookmarking, as it has links to all timetables for bus, train and trams passing through our municipality. It also has a Moreland local area travel map (useful to send visiting friends) with route numbers, train stops and more.
Transport and parking strategies to go to March council meeting
After years in development, the proposed Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy (MITS) is scheduled to be presented to the Moreland Council meeting on 13 March.
The Draft Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy focuses on what Council can do directly to improve transport in Moreland, such as new or improved routes for pedestrians and cyclists, and traffic management works that help reduce speeding or unnecessary traffic on local roads. It also identifies the priorities for working with bodies like VicRoads and Transport Victoria, such as seeking reduced speed limits on local streets and more bus services, particularly in Moreland’s north.
Council has also developed a parking strategy, which will introduce new restrictions on parking in certain areas. You can check out how your location is affected.
Merri footbridge coming
Construction of the pedestrian and bike bridge to link the Merri Path behind Ceres in Brunswick, to Beavers Road in Northcote, is getting under way. Construction is being managed by the City of Darebin, and the preferred builder was approved by that Council at their meeting on 4 February. Planning approvals are also done, so work can start soon. Thanks to the community members who mounted the successful campaign to persuade Darebin and Moreland Councils to carry out this important project.
Feature: Scorecard fails
on community rights
Brunswick Residents Network fully endorses the views set out in a recent article in The Conversation:
“Planners need to engage with communities and hear from them about their lived experience to better understand and measure their quality of life, their health and their neighbourhoods’ liveability. Objective measures of the quality of access should be accompanied by insights from residents about their lives in the suburbs. The voice of residents needs to be included in the planning of our cities as they grow, as well as the metrics of how successful we are in delivering equitable cities that foster healthy, affordable and prosperous lives for all.”
Unfortunately, Moreland Council – once again – is heading in the opposite direction, with their latest “Design Excellence Scorecard.”
At their February meeting, Moreland councillors adopted a “Development Excellence Scorecard.” In a triumph of marketing, this scheme has been rebranded from “fast track” in 2017 to “design excellence” in 2019, to cover the reality that it will limit input from residents and their elected representatives in planning decisions.
The Scorecard first came before Council in 2017 as the “Fast Track program”, with the objective of fast tracking development projects of ‘architectural and environmental’ merit. Developers who submit appropriate designs are rewarded with fast tracked approval and construction, with decisions being taken by Moreland Council staff without the need to seek approval from elected Councillors. The fast track development program was brought again before Council in early 2018 as the “Quality Design Scorecard” and finally adopted as the “Design Excellence Scorecard”, approved at the Council meeting on 13 February.
The benefit to developers, according to council staff, is “increased certainty and time savings in the permit process, created by guaranteed decision making under delegation.” The quickest way to speed up the planning process is to remove residents from the planning loop. Council staff claim that there will be “no changes to public consultation and no change to consultation meetings with residents”. However, in response to questions at the February Moreland Council meeting, Acting Director City Futures Phillip Priest acknowledged that: “The only way to fast track the system is to remove public consultation.”
BRN obviously supports the idea that new buildings should be better constructed and more environmentally sustainable. But we have significant concerns that the Scorecard process takes more planning decisions on major projects behind closed doors, and allows non-elected officials to trade off issues like height and set-backs.
The use of such planning tools is part of a broader pattern promoting industry self-regulation, which has left Victoria with disasters like the use of non-regulation cladding. Fast-tracking in NSW contributed to the Opal Tower disaster in Sydney, which has left owners and renters with massive costs, as builders, developers and building surveyors blame each other for poor construction.
According to the report on the Scorecard prepared by Council staff, industry professionals such as planners, architects, developers, builders, engineers, ESD consultants, access consultants and academics were consulted in the development of the measure. However, Moreland Council failed to consult with resident groups in Brunswick, Coburg or Fawkner. The input of buyers was another obvious omission.
The most significant failing is that the Scorecard will open up a unique avenue of permit approval particularly for multi-unit developments. No other council in Victoria has such a planning mechanism, so again Moreland becomes the guinea pig. It seems Moreland Council has given up its policy of seeking mandatory planning controls, and fallen back on trying to encourage developers to do the right thing.
In the past, we’ve seen that when the community is excluded from planning decisions, there is usually a trade-off of design features (such as height) that are important to objectors.
Another problem is that an individual “scorecard” building may have some design merit in its own right, but will set a precedent on height, setbacks or heritage that other developers will use in VCAT appeals (see for example the long-running dispute between the Nightingale developers and a neighbouring developer, who sought the same exemption over removal of car-parking requirements given to the supposedly superior building next door).
Because of lack of mandatory heights in the planning scheme, the Scorecard is void of real definitions of what heights are suitable for each site. Moreland has recently approved a development that is three storeys above the preferred height set out in the planning scheme. The Scorecard will inevitably become attractive for eight-storey building applications in five-stores areas. If this is set as the acceptable height at a pre-application meeting (or a pre-pre-meeting) between the developer and council staff – then there‘s no way back from that, because the Councillors do not get a say.
Appeals to VCAT on height will then have to be funded by the objector, shifting appeal costs from the developers to the community. For example, if the building should be five storeys according to a Councillor or community, the objectors have to either put up with the 8-level decision or raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to appeal. This Scorecard will effectively discourage objectors from participating at all in the approval process.
The Scorecard once again takes decision making within the planning industry bubble – the closed circuit of developers, architectural firms, consultants and Council staff. We believe that planning should be more democratic, and must engage people who have to live with the consequences after the consultants and builders have moved on to greener pastures. Planners need to engage with communities and hear from them about their lived experience to better understand and measure their quality of life, their health and their neighbourhoods’ liveability.
Planning for our suburb
Let’s Keep the ‘Subby’
The ‘East Brunswick Village’ is slowly rising from the huge hole in Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, with construction underway for hundreds of apartments and a giant shopping and supermarket complex. This is perhaps the biggest project in Brunswick for a century, with the developer marketing the project as “a sensitive blend of the old and the new.” But almost nothing ‘old’ remains of this once vibrant industrial pocket.
There is however one delightful fragment of the old that DOES remain – a little brick castle built by the City of Brunswick Electricity Supply Company to house an electricity sub-station. It’s located at the southern end of Elm Grove, a small street off Albert Street near Fleming Park. The heritage significance of this building was confirmed by Council’s recent heritage ‘gap study.’ But worryingly, it has not been included for local heritage protection as part of Amendment C174, which is meant to implement the findings of the gap study.
A Council officer has suggested that this is because its demolition has already been ‘approved’ through endorsement of the Development Plan for the East Brunswick Village. But how could this be? The building is not located on land owned by the developer, but sits on a road reserve, so is probably controlled by Council. Moreover, Council built and operated the facility until the 1990s, which adds to the likelihood that it still owns the building.
Irrespective of ownership, the building has been assessed as worthy of a Heritage Overlay and is currently intact. Surely its heritage value should be formally recognised and considered as part of any future decision. Even if a permit has been issued (and we have not seen evidence of this) then a sensitive owner (which seems to be our local Council) is not obliged to proceed with demolition, or to consent for others to demolish it.
In mid-2017 Council officers were alerted that a permit application for an apartment building immediately beside this structure was proposing vehicle access in a location that would require removal of the sub-station. This threat led to its priority consideration within the gap study, confirming its important contribution to Brunswick’s heritage and character.
Little now remains from the rich industrial history of this locality, including the famous Sidney Cooke Fasteners factory, home of millions of bolts, screws and nails that have held Australia together for generations. Retention of this delightful and eccentric little structure, with suitable use and interpretation, would be a perfect feature contributing to the pedestrian- and cyclist-priority street proposed for Elm Grove in Council’s concept plan for the locality. This lane will provide the most direct link between the new ‘village’ centre and Fleming Park, less than 40 metres away.
Council is set to consider submissions to Amendment C174 at its meeting on Wednesday 13 March. Among these is a request to include the ‘subby’ in the Amendment, so the specialist report is fully implemented into the Planning Scheme. Until the agenda becomes public, we won’t know if this submission has the support of officers. If it doesn’t, hopefully our Councillors will ensure protection for this piece of urban heritage and help retain this final fragment of East Brunswick’s industrial past.
Fines for destruction of heritage pub
In our October 2017 edition, BRN reported on the war on inner-city pubs, such as the overnight illegal destruction of the 161-year-old Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton, and the closure of Bridie O’Reilly’s Irish Pub (the former Sarah Sands Hotel), on the corner of Sydney Road and Brunswick Road.
Now, the developers who destroyed the Corkman in 2016 – Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski and their front company 160 Leicester Pty Ltd – have been handed a record $1.325 million fine by the Melbourne Magistrates Court. They have also been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the EPA for illegally dumping asbestos-contaminated materials after the event. (Both rulings are under appeal).
[If only similar fines were allocated to the developers, builders and surveyors who have put illegal cladding on dozens of buildings around Melbourne, including structures in Brunswick, posing hazards to owners and residents!]
In our neighbourhood, the East Brunswick Hotel (on the corner of Lygon and Albert Streets) has finally re-opened after more than a year’s closure. But the Railway Hotel – opposite Brunswick Station – is now closed and falling into disrepair.
Go-ahead for Weston Street Cinema
In our December 2017 newsletter, we reported on plans for a new rooftop cinema opposite the Barkly Square shopping centre. Now, at their February planning meeting, Moreland Councillors approved a planning permit for the new shops and cinema complex at 1-5 Weston Street, Brunswick, approximately 50 metres east of Sydney Road.
Before Christmas, Brunswick residents met with Moreland Mayor Natalie Abboud and Councillors Mark Riley and Jess Dorney to discuss concerns with the planning application, especially about noise, parking and traffic.
34 objectors raised concern over the absence of car parking provided on site, loss of on-street parking to provide bicycle parking, noise from the cinemas and the orientation of the cinema complex. The maximum number of patrons permitted for the cinema is up to 1120 people at any one time, operating from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight. With a rooftop cinema bar, there is the potential for noise from departing patrons after midnight.
Long-term residents near the site argued for a phased reduction of parking in Weston Street that will not disadvantage residents who in good faith live, work and shop in our neighbourhood.
However the majority of Councillors (by a vote of 7-3) supported zero parking at this Commercial 3 Zone development site, to send a message to visitors to Moreland that we have too many cars in our city already. BRN agrees that locals should be encouraged to walk or ride to this cinema, and that part of the solution is to improve the frequency and safety of evening public transport.
VCAT green light: 8 dwellings on a block
Ren & Dan Developments Pty Ltd v Moreland CC  VCAT 159 (1 February 2019)
VCAT has overruled Moreland Council’s decision not to issue a planning permit on a property in Brunswick West, replacing a single storey weatherboard dwelling with the construction of eight attached dwellings (six double storey and two triple storey). The development, in a Residential Growth Zone, also includes an eight-vehicle car stacker fronting the rear laneway
‘Nightingale Village’ approved
Moreland Council has approved the major residential development comprising seven apartment buildings, designed by seven local architectural practices and delivered under the Nightingale model. The developers have bought up the entirety of Duckett Street, Brunswick for the project, with plans to build seven separate apartment buildings.
Dubbed “Nightingale Village,” the seven buildings are designed by Architecture Architecture, Austin Maynard Architects, Breathe Architecture, Clare Cousins Architects, Hayball, Kennedy Nolan and Wowowa.
Park Street awaits decision
VCAT is considering its decision in relation to objections to the proposed monster 14-storey development of 255 apartments and 12 townhouses overlooking – and overshadowing – Princes Park. Local residents group Protect Park Street Precinct raised over $100,000 to mount a legal case, pitted against the large legal team hired by developer JW Land Group, which paid $32 million for the site.
Community gardens across Brunswick
There are many community food gardens scattered around our suburb, promoting food gardening in public spaces. A community garden can be a collection of garden beds cultivated individually, or shared spaces for the community. Food produced is mainly for the consumption of the gardeners of a particular community garden. However many gardens also run Food Swaps where people swap excess home-grown produce and gardening extras.
Moreland Council has just published useful guidelines on how to set up your own community gardens on nature strips and other Council-owned or Council-managed land.
Community Food Growing Assessment Guidelines, January 2019
Otherwise you can also get involved in existing community initiatives around the south of the municipality:
- The West Brunswick Community Gardens and Food Forest is located behind 49 Everett Street, Brunswick West 3055.
- Brunswick Neighbourhood House Community Garden opened in May 2016. The Garden is located at the back of the Brunswick Neighbourhood House (43A De Carle St. Brunswick) and is run by a volunteer group of local residents. They host regular gardening sessions, composting, worm farms and workshops. Everyone is welcome.
- The SEEDs Communal Garden is located at 331 Albert St, Brunswick. SEEDs have a monthly Food Swap (on the second Saturday of the month) and promotes “natural networks, skills, mutual opportunities, friendships, organic food and community’ for all who are involved in it.”
- There are also Community Gardens at the CERES Environment Park and the Gronn Place Housing Estate in West Brunswick.
You can find out how to get involved in these gardens through the Moreland Food Gardens Network, or by accessing information and community grants from Moreland Council.
Trees for Albert Street?
There are lots of reasons to ask Council to plant trees in your street: to beautify the neighbourhood, provide shade for pedestrians and cyclists, visual cues for motorists to slow down and make a contribution to combating the urban heat island effect.
Last year, residents of Albert Street, Brunswick met with Moreland Council Open Space Planner Alex English, to develop a plan for tree planting along the street. However the trees were not planted in time before the summer heat. There were initial delays last year engaging contractors via a new Council procurement system. There are lines painted on the road and footpath marking the location for new trees, but the concrete contractors struggled to safely access sites three times on Albert Street last year.
The contractors have now requested that Moreland Council close the road temporarily to allow them access. Given the very dry conditions over the summer (which make it a bad time for planting) it was decided to delay the project until council staff can organise the road closure, cut the concrete and plant new trees, all during a quieter period in autumn.
For this reason, Moreland Council is proposing to close off sections of Albert Street between Nicholson Street and Sydney Road from 9am to 3pm for a three day period during the April school holidays. Once Council has developed a proposed traffic management plan for the temporary road closure, they will inform all affected residents of the details via a letter to households with a follow up reminder letter a week prior to the temporary road closures.
If you have any questions or concerns, then please contact Alex English on 0403 603 532 or email AEnglish@moreland.vic.gov.au
Snap & Send problems to Council
Annoyed by damaged trees, dumped rubbish, cracked pavements or uprooted signs? There’s a new app and website you can use to send instant information to council staff and local authorities.
Free to download and available online, Snap Send Solve makes it easy to report incidents on the spot, sending photos of issues that need attention to Moreland Council and a range of other authorities. You can use it to automatically report incidents to the correct local authority quickly and easily.
Community and culture
Gong for Brunswick historian
Congratulations to Brunswick historian Laurie Cunningham for his gong awarded through the Australia Day Honours.
John Laurence (Laurie) Cunningham was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to community history.
Born in 1933, Laurie has chronicled the working class history of our suburb and captured many stories that mark important transitions across the inner north. His book ‘Frame by frame’ provides a history of Brunswick’s picture theatres, while he collaborated with Laura Donati to edit and compile “Our Anzacs”, a scrapbook of stories and documents on Brunswick during World War 1.
Given the destruction of inner-city pubs (see story above), Laurie has authored a number of works published through the Brunswick Community History Group, capturing stories of the Brunswick pubs such as “Remember the Carrington : a Brunswick workingman’s pub” and a history of the Union Hotel.
His many books are available at the Brunswick Library, who have mounted a little display in his honor – it’s in the glass box just behind the information desk.
Brunswick Music Festival
Brunswick Music Festival is underway again this week and next week, celebrating the artists that define one of Melbourne’s favourite musical neighbourhoods, and showcasing different styles under new management this year. The festival is presented by Moreland City Council and Festivals Moreland.
The Festival Hub and Bar, MECHANICA is located at Brunswick Mechanics Institute (corner of Dawson Street and Sydney Road). It’s open from 5.30PM daily every weekday during the festival and from midday on weekends!
For the full program and to purchase tickets, visit the Brunswick Music Festival website at https://brunswickmusicfestival.com.au/
WHAT: Brunswick Music Festival
WHEN: March 3-17
INFO: Moreland Council Arts and Culture Unit Phone: 9240 1111
Next Moreland Council meetings
All Council meetings – held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month – are normally held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street*, Coburg. Council’s 2019 meeting calendar is:
- Wednesday 13 March 2019
- Wednesday 10 April 2019
The next Council planning meetings are:
- Wednesday 27 March 2019
- Wednesday 24 April 2019
- Wednesday 22 May 2019
- Wednesday 26 June 2019
Check for all meeting details at the Council website. Council meetings can be watched online, either live, or later – you can find details here along with the agenda for the next Council meeting.
- * Hint: If you go to an evening meeting at 90 Bell Street and find the doors locked, you can probably get in through the back door via Urquhart Street.
MAILING LIST AND FURTHER INFORMATION
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