From Walmer Street Action Group: Some eighty people concerned about the scale and nature of the proposed developments abutting Walmer Street, Abbotsford turned out on a cold Wednesday night (13 July 2016) to a consultation session with Salta Properties’ representatives. (Yarra City Council and State Department of Planning officials were apparently present but not identified.)

The focus of the meeting was revised design proposals for Walmer Street Plaza but a lengthy Q&A session ranged much wider, reflecting the attendees’ great dissatisfaction and disappointment with:

  • the overall design of this important Yarra River site: the bulk, height and sighting overwhelmed, rather than complemented, the unique mixture of parkland and urban landscape on this very special part of the Yarra River.
  • the extent to which commercial imperatives (maximising the number of apartments) and compliance (as opposed to best practice) thinking were being allowed to dominate/co-opt community interests and public ownership/amenity:
    • particularly in relation to the siting of the car park access tunnels in Walmer Street (as opposed to, for example, via Shamrock Street/Victoria Street), where the developer were asserting no better alternatives were available.
  • the size, shape and utility of “Walmer Plaza”, which was being driven by the siting of access tunnels to underground car parking:
    • the 2 metre uplift and associated steps , with the accompanying loss of “at grade” access to the Walmer Street bridge, would result in much reduced accessibility for pedestrians, the disabled and cyclists, which the revised cycle ramp design did little to ameliorate.
    • the scope for conflict/accidents with a very confined space being used for both pedestrian and cyclist access.
    • the lack of data or analysis of current pedestrian/disabled/cyclist traffic, potential growth and the capacity of the proposed plaza and pathway designs to accommodate traffic levels.
  • The absence of integrated design and development of the river crossing and Yarra city trail intersection:
    • Boroondara were applying to VicRoads for a grant to rebuild the ramp and land bridge on the Kew side and the bridge itself was time expired and needed rebuilding.
    • Bringing these elements into play would allow redesign that provided at grade access to Walmer Street and more satisfactory design options for the “Plaza” and trail access etc – only government, as owner/planning authority/land manager, can do this.

WalmerSt1_13July2016The Salta representatives handled politely what, at times, was a feisty session. Ducking the criticisms of the overall design, the key messages were that the “twin tunnels” was the optimal design solution and that the redesign of the bike access was a substantial response to previously expressed concerns.

On the broader issue of the future of the bridge etc, they merely noted that the plaza design could accommodate a bridge realignment at some later date. Nothing was heard from Yarra Council or the Department of Planning.

  • This emphasises the importance of government fulfilling its responsibilities for protecting and promoting the future of the public realm, such as the Walmer Street development.

A second consultation session was scheduled for 10.30-12.30 on Saturday 16 July at the display suite. For those who couldn’t make yesterday’s session, please make every effort to go to ensure we reinforce the message to the Council and Minister Wynne’s Department that the current proposals are not acceptable and that he and his department need to ensure delivery of an integrated plan for this area that meets long term community needs.

The Minister’s office is holding off decisions on next steps pending the outcome of the consultations. Wednesday was a great start. A strong turnout on Saturday will consolidate this message, which we can then carry forward into the media, Parliament etc.


Mike Waller

Mob 0438 616 240