By Colin MacGillivray
A group of Wallan property owners who are in a standoff with Mitchell Shire Council over the state of a High Street access way say it should be council’s responsibility to maintain.
Properties from 139 to 149 High Street currently access their properties via a gravelled area by the side of the road.
Paul May, the owner of Wallan Vet Hospital at 139 High Street, said the installation of safety barriers north of his practice had made the area a de facto access road, with residents of all the buildings between the vet and William Street forced to enter via the same access point.
He said he had discussed the area with council for more than five years and he was told by previous council chief executive David Turnbull in 2018 the area would be placed on Victoria’s road register.
But Mr May said council had done little to maintain the area since then, and potholes at the access point had made getting to and from properties along the road dangerous.
“I’ve been contacting the council to try to get them to come out and get it redone and they claim it’s not their responsibility and that it should be our responsibility and the rest of the residents’,” he said.
“That would require the formation of a body corporate. There is no body corporate and there has never been any responsibility for residents to maintain that area.
“It has all stemmed from the installation of the barriers, because every car now has to pass through one access point, which, in our view, turns it into a service road given it’s used by things like garbage trucks to get people’s bins collected, which make the potholes worse.
“I know of someone whose bumper was damaged coming and going from the area. She rang council and complained that her car was damaged, and she was told that it wasn’t council’s responsibility … and that if she wanted somebody to cover the cost of the damage, she should talk to the residents.”
Mr May said a planning permit granted by council when he built the vet practice required him to regravel the area immediately in front of his building when works were complete, but made no mention of any need for him to provide ongoing maintenance.
“They refer to it in the permit as an access way, whereas council in all their current correspondence are referring to it as a roadside area, and a roadside area is the responsibility of property owners, not council,” he said.
“They’ve changed what they classify it as and they basically don’t want any responsibility for it whatsoever.
“The fact that the previous CEO said he would add it to the register suggests they know it’s an access road.”
Council chief executive Brett Luxford said council had never recognised the area as a service road.
“Council has had a number of discussions with representatives from this business concerning the status of the roadside area alongside High Street in Wallan,” he said.
“Property owners are responsible for maintaining vehicle access between their property and the public road – the formal part of High Street.
“The area between the formal part of High Street and the properties is not a declared public road. Council does not carry out maintenance of this area.”
But Mr May said council had, on occasion, undertaken work on the area.
“They’ve regravelled it previously and they’ve installed new drainage, so they seem to recognise it as an area that they need to maintain, but then also argue that it’s not their responsibility to maintain it,” he said.
“The whole decision seems to be a financial one. They’re hiding behind the fact that they don’t have it on their road register so therefore they completely refuse to take any responsibility for it.”
Mr Luxford said the Department of Transport, rather than council, installed barriers that limited access to the area and council typically did not add roads to the public road register until they were formalised.
“There are a number of ways this could occur,” he said.
“The service road is constructed as part of future roadworks on High St undertaken by the Department of Transport; a developer constructs the service road as part of a substantial development proposal in the area; or landowners fund the construction as part of an upgrade scheme.”
Mr May said residents had written a total of 16 letters to council about the area. He said residents were considering challenging council at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if the road continued to degrade.