May 3, 2011  |  Adjournment

Bell Street, West Heidelberg: median strip

The matter I raise is directed to the Minister for Roads. The action I seek from the minister is that he stop the closure of the median strip in Bell Street, West Heidelberg, outside the Mall shopping centre, by VicRoads. By way of explanation, the Mall Traders Association, of which I am a member — my electorate office is in the Mall in West Heidelberg — has worked hard with local traders to support them.

Unfortunately VicRoads has now announced that it wants to close the median strip on Bell Street. This will stop traffic from Coomalie Crescent in West Heidelberg, which exits the Mall, from being able to turn right into Bell Street. It will also stop traffic from Bell Street heading west from making right-hand turns into Coomalie Crescent, and those heading east on Bell Street will not be able to turn into Coomalie Crescent.

The problem with that is that Coomalie Crescent is the largest car parking area for the Mall shopping centre, so the Mall traders are concerned that the closure of the median strip will stop most of the patrons, clients and customers from being able to access the largest car park. Also, the Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE shares a car park on Coomalie Crescent and therefore the TAFE students will not have access off Bell street into the car park, which is a great concern.

VicRoads has said it wants to close the median strip because of traffic and safety concerns due to accidents, but the traders and Banyule City Council’s economic development department are saying, ‘That is fine; let’s work on the safety issues ion Bell Street but let’s not close off the main route for traffic for the local traders and for the customers they rely on to run their businesses’.

I ask the Minister for Roads and VicRoads not to take the easy option. We are talking about a six-figure sum to close the median strip. What we are saying is that VicRoads should talk to the traders, Banyule City Council and the local member of Parliament about how we can find a solution that provides safety for residents and motorists but also provides for the livelihoods of the traders who use the Mall shopping centre.

VicUrban is involved in a range of plans to redevelop the Mall shopping centre, and the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, would be aware of them. Let us make sure that we value-add in what government departments are doing to ensure that we protect what the traders have to offer at the Mall in West Heidelberg. Let us also make sure — and I have met with Nial Finnegan, regional manager of VicRoads, who is prepared to look into these matters — that we do not funnel all the traffic into the residential streets of Tobruk Avenue and Tarakan Street where there are local schools.

Let us make sure that we find a solution that protects the livelihood of the Mall traders in West Heidelberg.