Park loss concern

Wallan Environment Group president Claudia James and Wallan resident Christine Banks, centre, with Amelia Muhrer, Matt Delaney, with Laurie and Winifred, and Steve Falla, far right, at Wallan Community Park.

By Jackson Russell

A group of Wallan residents have taken issue with Mitchell Shire Council’s draft King and Queen Street Masterplan, particularly with the loss of land at Wallan Community Park.

A north-south connector road between William Street and Watson Street forms part of the masterplan, and if it were to go ahead, the road would be a key thoroughfare.

The road is expected to be used for vehicles headed to and from Hidden Valley, Wallan East or the recently-funded Watson Street interchange connecting to the Hume Freeway.

However, the road would have to be built over a section of Wallan Community Park, with a signalised intersection installed at McCarthy Court and Watson Street, drawing calls for it to be removed from the plan.

Wallan resident Christine Banks said council should not have considered a road through the park.

“It’s precious, we have wildlife here, we have magpie families and also, it’s the only safe environment for families to come, for kids to come and play, where there’s no road running next to it,” she said.

“If they put a road through here… there’s going to right be a road right behind people’s houses and it’s going to have traffic on it 24/7.”

Ms Banks said she was also concerned about the current consultation period during the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of communication from council to affected residents.

“How can you put things through like that when you cannot have a public meeting? It’s just abhorrent,” she said.

“It shouldn’t even be in consideration until after this COVID thing is over and we can have a proper public meeting, and have time to actually let people know.”

Wallan Environment Group, with assistance from council, previously volunteered at the site removing basket willows and revegetating the creek.

It also built a rabbit-proof fence at the eastern end of the site, where the proposed road will be built, to aid in the regeneration of the park’s vegetation, which has more recently been used as an off-leash area by dog owners.

Wallan Environment Group president Claudia James is another objector to the road, with concerns about traffic and the use of public space.

Ms James said while she agreed the plan was necessary to co-ordinate development in the area, the idea of severing Wallan Community Park was ‘unacceptable’.

“Once the recently announced Watson Street freeway interchange is completed… this is destined to become a major thoroughfare, one that empties out at both the freeway entrance and soon to be built exit, becoming Wallan’s ring road,” she said.

“Through many hours of volunteer effort and with the support of the [council’s] parks and gardens team, Wallan Community Park has developed into an extremely valuable and well-used community asset.

“Now a major connector road is proposed to be built through the eastern section, cutting off a huge area, fragmenting what is currently a wonderful safe, car-free recreational area, rendering it useless.”

A council spokesperson said the draft masterplan was now out for public consultation with property owners in the area directly mailed, along with some residents of properties near Wallan Community Park.

“The north-south connector road will provide significantly improved access to Watson Street, which will provide for direct access to the future diamond interchange,” the spokesperson said.

“This road would be required to be built across a small section of the community park, however, there are additional open spaces planned across the precinct including a larger open space area between King and William Street and linear parks along Mittagong Creek.”

The spokesperson said council would continue to host discussions with submitters, residents and wider community following the public consultation process.

“There are further steps to go before the masterplan is adopted in whatever final form it takes. This is the starting point and we welcome input from everyone who is interested,” the spokesperson said.