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Tram shame

Government left red-faced on Ferrars St

09 Feb 2017

Government left red-faced on Ferrars St Image

By Sean Car

The State Government has informed the City of Port Phillip that it won’t have the funds required to open the new Montague Park on Ferrars St by the beginning of 2018 as originally planned.

Streetscape works, road closures, tram stop upgrades and the new $19 million park had all been planned to be ready in time for the opening of the new vertical primary school on Ferrars St.

However, the State Government informed council late last year that the plan would no longer be proceeding on the original time frame due to a lack of available developer contributions.

It is understood that the State Government had banked on more than $100 million in developer contributions being available to help carry out the project under the original plan.

However, while many developments have been approved for a number of years in Montague very few have actually started.

It’s also understood that the cost of funding the project is significantly higher than initially thought, with the government stating that funds for remediation works at the Montague Park site are not yet available.

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne wouldn’t comment on the government’s business plan for the precinct, but said that funding for the project was not in doubt.

“Funding for the park’s development has been confirmed by the Andrews Labor Government, delivered in partnership with the City of Port Phillip, and early works are now being planned,” he said. “The premises are being vacated and preparation of the site will occur over the coming months.”

The matter was heard at the City of Port Phillip’s council meeting on December 13 last year, where Cr Andrew Bond said he was “furious” about the news.

The significant reduction in available developer contribution funding has meant that a re-scoping of the current streetscape plans for the new education and community precinct is now required.

Councillors unanimously voted in support of a motion to allow residents and local businesses at Surveyors Place and Meaden St in Southbank to provide further input to help reshape the streetscape plan.

The lack of funding has come as welcome news to the likes of Surveyors Place Owners’ Corporation (OC) chair Peter Harvey who, along with more than 30 other business owners, has been given renewed hope of survival.

Under the council’s original streetscape plan, the top end of Ferrars and Gladstone streets would be permanently closed, surrounding streets narrowed and more than 180 car parks permanently removed.

Businesses have long argued that the plans would cripple them and were given some hope in September following months of negotiating with council’s planning officers.

Officers had recommended implementing the plan under a transitional arrangement over five years until 2023, which would provide businesses with more time. However, councillors unexpectedly voted against the proposal.

This latest news means the transitional plan could be back on the table and Mr Harvey said that while the news was positive, most businesses would most likely use the extra time to plan their escape.

“We’re using the time as possible preparation to get out of the City of Port Phillip,” he said. “Most of my tenants in this building have not renewed their leases and they’re on a monthly tenancy.”

“A number of other members of our 30 businesses have found the same that their tenants are not necessarily renewing until they know how they can survive without access and parking and so that’s putting 300 jobs at risk.”

Many businesses that make up Surveyors Place are creative-based and Mr Harvey and other owners have long argued they would marry up perfectly with a new school.

Asked whether fostering existing creative industries in the precinct was in the government’s interest for the new school, the Minister for Planning said:

“Our recast vision for Fishermans Bend is for a mixed-use precinct and that includes businesses that support innovation such as professional services and creative industries.”

The matter is expected to come back to a council meeting again in March.

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