Cooling the Upfield Corridor – Our Submission

May 18, 2018 at 2:12 pm 1 comment

Here is the submission that CAM has made to the Cooling the Upfield Corridor Action Plan 2018-29.

Climate Action Moreland (CAM) is pleased to provide a submission to the Cooling the Upfield Corridor Action Plan. CAM has long campaigned on addressing the Urban Heat Island Effect as a very effective way of adapting to the continuing and ever increasing effects of rising temperatures, drought and more intense rain events. Over the coming decades, Melbourne is expected to experience hotter temperatures, and more intense heat waves. This is likely to cause disruptions to public transport, energy supply failures, huge discomfort to Moreland residents and a considerable rise in deaths and co-morbidity. Local government plays a very important role in reducing this vulnerability and the Cooling Upfield Corridor Plan is a vital step in the right direction.

Our submission deals with various issues that we believe would improve this Action Plan. Below we list characteristics of the Upfield Corridor that make traditional urban greening strategies more difficult. We then list our key recommendations. This is followed by our elaboration on several of the recommendations.

Characteristics of Upfield Corridor

  • Higher proportion of industrial and business sites
  • Increasing number of multi-unit developments being built
  • High number of renters
  • Mainly non-permeable asphalt roads and footpaths
  • Lack of traditional sense of ownership of nature strips and street trees

In many other locations, local residents have traditionally maintained nature strips and other permeable surfaces in front of their homes, and cared for street trees. However, the characteristics of the Upfield Corridor means that this model is not working well. The permeable surfaces that do exist are not being used effectively and many street trees that are planted are struggling. The Upfield Corridor also desperately needs more permeable surfaces, street trees and cooler roofs on buildings to reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect. Better use needs to be made of existing permeable surfaces. Given the various difficulties in implementing urban cooling strategies in public areas, we suggest that Moreland Council also encourage changes in private areas that contribute to urban cooling.

Key Recommendations:

  • Cool Roofs: Mandate that all new medium density developments install green roofs or cover the roofs with solar PV or hot water panels, and mandate that all new roofs and those being replaced for renovation be light in colour. Green or light roofs and solar panels have been shown to reduce the urban heat island effect in surrounding areas.
  • Cool Surfaces: When replacing or repairing paving or road surface, utilise cooler surfaces, including permeable paving. Reflective surfaces may also be used, though care needs to ensure this doesn’t increase glare for pedestrians.
  • Drinking Fountains: Greatly extend the availability of drinking fountains at regular intervals where appropriate within the corridor.
  • Adopt a Tree Program: Create an online database whereby locals can formally agree to adopt a local street tree, and water and mulch it regularly according to published guidelines.
  • Hoops and Cages to Protect Trees: Protect new street trees from damage. Use cages to stop vandalism, and metal hoops to protect in-road trees from vehicle impact.
  • Protect Street Trees During Developments: Introduce stronger regulations to protect street trees from being removed for the convenience of developers and house builders. Too often street trees are damaged or removed when a house lot is cleared for development.
  • Increase Number of In-Road Street Trees: Greatly increase the number of sites for in-road street trees in the side streets throughout the Upfield Corridor.
  • Underground Electricity Cables: Advocate for underground electricity cables so that street trees can grow to their full potential and not be butchered to remain clear of overhead cables.
  • Green Corridors: Create green corridors that encourage people to walk to the shops, schools, parks etc. in hot weather. These also have the benefit of creating habitat for native species.
  • Vegetation on Existing Permeable Surfaces: Ensure proper utilisation of all existing permeable surfaces (including nature strips and in tree pits). Permeable surfaces which do not have adequate ground cover, vegetation, or turf grass need to be identified and a strategy developed to rectify this. Encourage the growing of ground cover and other vegetation rather than turf grass. Remove approval process for residents wishing to plant their nature strip.
  • Rain Gardens: Install as many rain gardens / swales as possible to reduce stormwater runoff.
  • Increase Permeable Surfaces: Install or retrofit existing paved surfaces to create water-permeable surfaces wherever appropriate. Examples are creating small parks in dead end streets. Encourage the creation of more permeable surfaces, particularly gardens, in privately owned spaces.
  • Increase Greening of Council Car Parks: Develop a program to green Council car parks, though creation of permeable surfaces and inter-planting with canopying trees. As the availability of alternative transport strategies increases, turn sections of these car parks into public parks.

Engaging with Residents on Selection and Care of Street Trees

Our correspondence with Council indicates there is no regular watering schedule for the 15,000+ street trees juvenile trees (5,000 x 3 years). There is little or no communication about roles and opportunities for looking after a street tree. Only residents of the closest dwelling are notified of a new planting and then only informed about the type of tree.

A new street tree benefits nearby residents, not just occupants of the closest dwelling. It would be a simple matter to letterbox nearby residents and businesses before and after the tree-planting.

Various locals may well want a say in the type of tree and may be willing to water and mulch the tree regularly – if Council engaged them in the process. These people include residents in adjacent or opposite properties, and local businesses and workers.

We suggest a publicly available online database be created, whereby locals can formally agree to adopt a local street tree, and water and mulch it regularly according to published guidelines. This would significantly improve the canopy while reducing costs for Council. We also suggest that those willing to adopt a tree could choose from a list of council-provided species, or be allowed their own choice.

Physical Protection for New Street Trees

Young street trees are vulnerable to vandalism, theft and unintentional damage from vehicles. Theft and vandalism could be greatly reduced through the use of cages.

The Plan identifies about 387 designed vacant tree sites where trees could be planted at the road’s edge. Such in-road trees are particularly vulnerable to vehicle impact (particularly reversing vehicles). We have had reports of trees being hit several times, including by careless maintenance vehicles working in the street.

Some jurisdictions provide barriers such as metal hoops to protect these trees. (An example from Yarra Council is provided on page 18 of the draft report.) In some Moreland streets, there are hoops that were clearly installed many years ago. However, there are many in-road trees without protection. Moreland also has plans for more in-road trees. Protective hoops (and cages for young trees) need to be installed to protect all in-road trees.

Permeable Surfaces Not Used Effectively due to Split Responsibility

There are few nature strips in the Upfield Corridor. Those that do exist are a valuable resource. Grasses and low plants assist with urban cooling, maintain the soil health and reduce water run-off. All street users benefit from planted nature strips. To capture these benefits, the current split responsibility needs to be resolved. Nature strips are owned by the Council, yet Council does not maintain them. The characteristic of the Upfield Corridor means that there is often no clear responsibility taken on by residents. Renters, residents of multi-unit developers and those without a lawnmower are unlikely to maintain a nature strip. There are other small permeable surfaces, such as in tree pits, that are also not effectively utilised.

We suggest that Council identify permeable surfaces which do not have adequate ground cover or vegetation (or even turf grass – which is not the preferred groundcover) and develop a strategy to rectify this.

Solutions include:

  • Council taking responsibility for poorly utilised nature strips within the Upfield Corridor, planting with hardy, low maintenance ground cover to reduce costs.
  • Council works with local community groups who are planting native gardens in public spaces.
  • Council engage with local residents in the Upfield Corridor streets that have poorly utilised nature strips to formulate plans for these areas.

It is preferable that nature strips be beautified with vegetation and ground cover, rather than just being covered with turf grass. (Maintenance of turf grass is resource intensive.) We suggest that Council remove obstacles to this, particularly by relaxing their “Nature Strip Beautification Guidelines”. Currently residents who do wish to beautify their nature strips must submit a plan for approval. This approval process may be deterring residents, particularly those who wish to experiment by planting a small part of their nature strip. Rather, we suggest that guidelines for such nature strips be published, with residents required to adhere to these guidelines. We note that this is the approach used by Darebin Council.

Increasing Permeable Surfaces and Planting of Drought-Tolerant and Food-Producing Plants

Other Councils are trialling permeable car park surfaces. Various types of permeable park surfaces are available, which can accommodate low to fairly high traffic, pedestrian and vehicular.

The retail/shopping/car park area east of Coburg train station would benefit significantly from a permeable car park surface. Planting trees in the car park to shade the dark surfaces would also reduce heat absorption.

There are many opportunities to create small pockets of permeable ground. These include around street trees, intersections, large and/or wide streets, many of which could incorporate rain gardens / swales. There are also opportunities for creating parks in dead end streets where no vehicle access is required (particularly around the Upfield line). This is mentioned at 6.1. but is listed as “long term delivery”. We suggest quicker action to make this a high priority.

There are currently many car parks around Sydney Rd. We expect that over the coming decades, the need for car parks will be reduced, due to increased use of bicycles and public transport, car share, and smaller electric vehicles. CAM suggests a program to green Council car parks, by installing permeable surfaces and inter-planting with canopying trees and, over time, turning sections of carparks into parks for trees and people.

There is also a large opportunity to increase sustainable greening within the private realm (both commercial and residential spaces) particularly by encouraging the use of permaculture techniques. Local residents and business could be encouraged to plant gardens using drought-tolerant or food-producing plants, to use compost and mulch and to install rain water tanks and grey water systems use. This would tie in very effectively with Moreland’s Food System Strategy.

The safe growing of food in private gardens and on nature strips should be encouraged, particularly as an alternative to turf grass. This also assists in helping residents collaborate with neighbours, that is, in building communities.

Given that decreased rainfall is a likely impact of climate change, we anticipate future water restrictions. Council need to consider the effect of this, and promote greater use of rainwater tanks and grey water systems. As the Council notes: “Growing produce close to home helps reduce high food miles, chemical and water use typically associated with commercially grown food”. We therefore suggest that Council advocate that for productive gardens and trees be exempt from future water restrictions.  Again, we suggest that Council just publish the guidelines for food-producing plants on nature strips, and remove the need to gain permission for plantings that adhere to the guidelines.

 

 

 

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Nat . A  |  June 8, 2018 at 10:56 am

    This is fantastic, thank you. Nat A.

    Reply

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