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Mitchell Shire Council’s bid to keep town streets wide

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Broadford’s Davidson Street and Seymour’s Tarcombe Road are two examples of a trend Mitchell Shire councillors are aiming to curb – road extensions being built narrower than the original sections of road.

In June 2020, Cr Rhonda Sanderson requested council officers prepare a report exploring ways to ensure road upgrades or extensions were of the same width of the existing road and of similar widths to other roads in the immediate area.

Cr Sanderson cited Davidson Street and Tarcombe Road as instances of developers narrowing the width of a pre-existing road when building an extension.

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Tarcombe Road narrows after its intersection with Avenel Road in an easterly direction, while Davidson Street narrows after its intersection with White Street travelling westward.

At last month’s council meeting officers reported back, noting that two different sets of engineering standards governed infrastructure built as part of new developments – the Engineering Design and Construction Manual, EDCM, for all areas within Victoria’s urban growth boundary, and the Infrastructure Design Manual, IDM, for all areas outside the growth boundary.

Under both standards, road widths are set relative to the anticipated traffic volumes that will use the road at full capacity, but that town structure plans could specify local road widths wider than the prescribed standards.

Where wider roads were prevalent in the surrounding area, structure plans could prescribe a specific standard that could be applied.

But officers warned that in the absence of exact specifications in town structure plans, developers were likely to build at the minimum prescribed road width, even if it was narrower than the existing road, or request council to fund any additional costs to build the road at its desired width.

Cr Sanderson said the report highlighted the importance of town structure plans.

“There is some possibility we can have influence on the designs through our structure plans, as we have done with our Broadford Structure Plan where we said we prefer wider roads. But we are fairly well bound by the design manuals,” she said.

“We can negotiate with developers and that is our intention. We try to get wider roads where we can, but of course it will depend on the usage. If it’s not used by many people, we’d be fighting an uphill battle.

“It has had councillors and community confounded a bit at times as to why continuations of roads are so narrow compared to the old roads, particularly in the older areas [of towns].”

Cr Bill Chisholm said areas such as Wallan and Beveridge, which are inside Melbourne’s growth boundary, had little wiggle room, but that proper planning could preserve the character of towns like Kilmore, Broadford and Seymour.

“The original intent of this was to keep the neighbourhood character of some of our towns and continue with the width of existing streets,” he said.

“We’ve got things like the neighbourhood character in the Broadford Structure Plan, and that sets the precedent for what we require developers to follow.

“Hopefully we can keep the streets at the widths they were originally designed for in country towns.”

Cr Nathan Clark said narrow roads in new developments were often at odds with how people lived, citing a recent trip to Doreen.

“I can see that most people use their garages for storage. I think that’s the way houses are built now – I don’t think houses have adequate storage in them when they’re designed,” he said.

“So storage moves to the garage and the cars move into the street.”

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