Submission: Retaining trees as heritage and to moderate heat in Gandolfo Gardens with Skyrail construction

September 12, 2019 at 1:25 pm 1 comment

Urban forest canopy in a highly urbanised area such as around Moreland Station provides vital environmental services. These include habitat for urban wildlife, particularly birds, air filtering pollutants, absorbing excesses rain runoff reducing urban flooding, and providing shade under the established tree canopy which reduces localised temperatures during extreme heat events.

The urban heat island effect is very prominent along the Upfield Corridor and tree canopy provides one of the best methods for local reduction in temperatures during extreme heat events. The trees in Gandolfo Gardens, part of the larger Moreland Reserves either side of the station, contribute substantially to community well being. While most of the present trees were planted during the 1970s and 1980s, there are several trees likely to be well over a hundred years old and part of the original community tree planting in 1911. The local community, lead by the Coburg Progress Association faought hard for the establishment of these reserves and the gardens and trees therein.

Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) will remove 4 sequential level crossings to build an elevated rail line starting from Tinning street and ending before O’Hea street in a $460 million construction project. At Moreland Road the proposal is to build a new elevated station north of the present heritage listed station.

This will entail the destruction of 113 trees within the Moreland Station Reserves, with inadequate reasons given for why the new station could not be built south of Moreland Road, over the road, or on the north side next to Moreland Road. LXRP fail to provide possible alternative construction methodologies to minimise the number of trees to be removed.

Their plans include removal of 2 magnificent Sugar Gum trees, thought to be part of the original 1911 tree plantings. They provide no reason these trees need to be destroyed, no options for working around these significant trees to do the construction work. These trees have a significant heritage value to our community.

The following submission (PDF) was written by Climate Action Convenor John Englart arguing the heritage case for tree retention in Gandolfo Gardens and Moreland Reserves. There is a strong climate imperative to retain as many mature trees as possible during the rail viaduct constriction. LXRP are giving us the project on the cheap, without due regard for our living tree heritage, and its environmental importance for moderating heat by evapo-transpiration and providing a substantial tree canopy.

This submission refutes some of the arguments in LXRP heritage Impact Statement and Reasonable and economic Use statement that the elevated rail will solve traffic congestion problems on Moreland Road and Bell Street in its current concept design. The Project ignores improving pedestrian access to the new stations, and improving congestion points at the pedestrian crossings at Bell street and Moreland Road, and the pedestrian and conflict zones around station precincts.

With a little bit more effort the project could be improved for active transport and reduce vehicle congestion, an improvement for sustainable transport and helping to reduce transport emissions. In its current configuration it will not substantially reduce traffic congestuion, and it may actually make the pedestrian crossings at bell Street and Moreland Road more dangerous.

LXRP needs to Build It Better as green infrastructure with improved outcomes for pedestrian accessibility, active transport and reduce congestion.

More information:

LXRP proposal to decimate Gandolfo Gardens trees


Submission on LXRP Heritage application permit at Moreland Station

I write in support of the 2019 nomination of extra historical items and Moreland Reserves, including the Gandolfo Gardens, as part of the heritage of the Upfield line, being of substantial local and state historical and cultural significance, and opposing the present application of the Level Crossing Removal Authority for a permit to conduct work as presently specified.

Personal Details:

I have been a resident of Moreland for 29 years. For 18 of those years I lived in Cassels Road near Moreland Station. My children often visited the Gandolfo Gardens and east Moreland reserve on a regular basis as the closest park to where we lived. My family attended the last closure and locking of the Tinning Street rail gates in 1998, including taking photos of the event. I have been an occasional user of Moreland station as a train passenger. For the last seventeen years I have used the Upfield bike path to cycle commute to work, for shopping, and to visit friends. Moving to Fawkner 2010, the Upfield bike path has become an even more important link for my visits to Coburg, Brunswick and into the city for a variety of purposes.

I have been reading and researching climate science and application to policy at all three levels of government since 2004. I am an active member of Climate Action Moreland since 2012,. I attended the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference COP21 in Paris in 2015, Marrakech COP22 in 2016, and Bonn COP23 in 2017, as an NGO observer for Climate Action Moreland and the Climate Action Network Australia. One of my areas of special attention has been human adaptation to extreme heat events, and the urban heat island for Moreland. Preservation of established mature tree canopy is very important in this regard.

I am also:

  • Committee member of the Upfield Corridor Coalition with a community vision for building a better skyrail,
  • member of the Upfield Transport Alliance looking to increase the reliability and frequency of the Upfield Line through track duplication and extension,
  • Coordinator of the Extend the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield Campaign which engages in advocacy for cyclists in the northern suburbs of Moreland and into Hume municipality.

Comments on LXRP Heritage Impact Statatement

I have no problems with removal and off-site storage of the Moreland Signal Box, Signal 35 or the ‘Canoe Tree Memorial’ prior to reinstatement on-site, as long as these are adequately documented, stored and reinstated in a professional manner.

I do object to ‘the removal of 113 trees within the Moreland Station Reserves (comprising 21 trees of high arboricultural value, 20 trees of moderate arboricultural value and 72 trees of low/no arboricultural value)’ and will argue that LXRP have not presented adequate alternatives, including alternative station siting close to Moreland Road, over Moreland Road, or south of Moreland Road to obviate the need for so many trees to be destroyed, including some culturally significant ones. I also argue the economic use document has major flaws.

I agree with the 2019 heritage nomination statement:

“The Upfield Railway Line Precinct is socially significant for its ability to demonstrate a way of life, working environment and functions that are no longer common in Victoria. It is also significant as a focus of local sentiment and as such is socially, economically and geographically important to the Brunswick and Coburg people. This is evident in several campaigns successfully mounted by local interest groups to retain and protect the line, and to lobby and develop unused land along the railway for gardens and recreation purposes for nearby residents living in a densely settled, open space deficient area.”

8. The extent to which the application affects the cultural heritage significance of the place or object (s.101(2)(a) of the Heritage Act)

I note LXRP statement “The two sugar gums identified as being of particular significance in the community-led nomination will be removed. It is noted that they appear to be early plantings, possibly dating from the community planting scheme in the early twentieth century These trees cannot be retained as part of the proposed works.”

LXRP fails to provide any rationale for destroying these trees, rather than modifying work practices to preserve these two trees in their work. This two trees are significant as they are most likely part of the original 250 trees planted by the community in 1911. They are part of the historical, cultural and environmental significance to the local community in the Upfield Line corridor, as significant as the rail infrastructure being preserved as heritage.

The Upfield Corridor Coalition Arboricultural Assessment conducted by Annette Salkeld highlights the priority for tree retention.
(ARBORICULTURAL ASSESSMENT Moreland Station Reserve, Coburg, Salkeld, Annette, August 2019, Upfield Corridor Coalition, https://upfieldcorridorcoalition.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/arboriculture-assessment-moreland-station-final-08092019.pdf )

“Six trees on the eastern side of the reserve are likely plantings dated from the original community plantings from 1911, with two trees on the western side likely planted in the 1930s or before. These trees are a priority to retain during the level crossing removal process. The thirty-one trees rated as having a high arboriculture value and should be a priority for retention through the level crossing removal process, including amendment to construction and building designs to accommodate.”

LXRP ignores the cultural and environmental value of the older trees and thus there value in retention and providing solutions to work around them.

Salkeld also stresses the importance of retention of high value mature trees for their continuing biodiversity value. Applying a value methodology to the high rated trees indicates their monetary value::” The population of high rated trees is estimated to represent nearly $1 million of value to the Moreland community.” The heritage and cultural value is on top of this, preserving heritage and culture is often of incalculable value to local community.

The significance lies in being part of the original plantings by the community in 1911 auspiced by the Coburg Progress Association after a successful community campaign to establish the Moreland Reserves for public use. As significant trees, they have the potential to have decades, if not centuries of life providing a link for future generations to their planting and establishment of the reserves.

I note the English Elm will be retained, yet the two Sugar gums will not. No adequate explabnation or costs of retaining the two sugar gums has been provided by LXRP.

I asked my teenage daughter, Tarryn and her friend Jessie , what they thought about the proposed changes with level crossing removal at Moreland; Both of these young adults used the parklands growing up. As teenagers they used the space, especially on the east side, to socialise with friends. They highlighted that this was their ‘sacred space’. Verbatim comments:
“Least amount of fucking around with gardens and playground” and “Keep the mature trees, especially the Sugar Gum trees next to the playground”

I note the Moreland Council independent heritage report by Ruth Redden states clearly, “The age of the trees contributes to the intactness and setting of the historic station;” Trees as part of the early 20th century plantings should strongly be considered as part of the social and community heritage.

(Heritage Advisor Report to Moreland Council, Ruth Redden (Heritage Advisor), September 2019, Moreland Council. https://upfieldcorridorcoalition.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/mcc-heritage-advisor-referral-response-gandolfogardens.pdf)

In regard to Service Route works:
additional evidence should be sort that the proposed routes are the best option from a heritage perspective, and that more mature trees cannot be retained.
A cost analysis comparing the proposed service routes vs an alternative option (including building the new station on the south side of Moreland Road where less trees will be disturbed.
I recommend a a financial bond also be placed with Heritage Victoria for the safeguarding and guaranteed reconstruction and relocation of significant elements.

10. If there are detrimental impacts on the cultural heritage significance of the place or object, provide reasons why the proposal should be permitted (s.101(2)(b), (d) and (f) and s. 101(3) of the Heritage Act)

I dispute the claim that the project in the present concept design will improve cycling connections. My analysis of the Upfield Path improvements shows that the present concept design has not resolved the key congestion points at main road crossings and conflict zones around the station precincts. Without these being resolved improvements to the Upfield bike path are of a cosmetic nature, when the improvements should be substantive given this is a $460 million transport project that should also address the arterial nature of the Upfield Bike path which has thousands of daily cyclists, including use as a major commuter path through Moreland.

12. Alternative proposals that were considered and reasons why these were dismissed (s.101(2)(a), (b), (d) and (f) and s.101(3) of the Heritage Act)

Details in the LXRP application have not shown how the proposed works have been designed to minimise the extent of tree loss to the greatest extent possible, The application should be denied until full assessment of alternative strategies for minimising tree loss is provided.

LXRP Reasonable and economic Use statement

Introduction

LXRP argue that the work will provide “A safe and well-connected transport network” to improve the “ liveability and also its economic activity, productivity and competitiveness.” yet LXRP has failed to demonstrate present active transport movements and the impact of the concept deasign on future active transport movements.

In particular, LXRP have not adequately addressed siting of stations near the main roads, or over the main roads to improve pedestrian and train passenger accessibility issues, close integration with bus stops and tram stops, or improve cycling flow along the arterial Upfield Bike Path at Bell Street and Moreland Road intersections, and the safety hazards of pedestrian/cycling conflict around station precincts.

Without addressing pedestrian access to stations from the south side of Moreland Road and the north Side of Bell Street, and the extent of cycling traffic along the Upfield Bike Path, congestion for vehicle traffic along Moreland Road and Bell Street will continue.

Currently there are 110 cyclists and 130 pedestrian movements an hour at the Bell Street crossing during morning peak hour. There are 250 cyclists an hour and 130 pedestrian movements an hour at Moreland Road during the morning peak hour. Cycling traffic has increased 100 percent (doubled) from 2017 to 2019 at the Upfield Bike Path and Moreland Road intersection.

Either a full length veloway, or cycle bridges at Bell Street and Moreland Road as part of the rail viaduct structure are the best way to address traffic congestion and conflict with all three modes to actually improve on road east-west traffic flow. Yet LXRP have not provided these solutions as part of their concept plan. Cycle bridges as part of the rail viaduct would minimise the impact on the heritage views and values, rather than a stand-alone cycle ramp structure.

Not addressing the main road crossings as part of providing efficient access to platforms for passengers and cycle flow at main roads, will continue these crossings as dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists and congested for vehicle traffic.

See my detailed assessment of the concept plan and the improvement to cycling facilities: (The Good, the bad and the plain Ugly: Assessing Coburg level crossing removal and the Upfield Bike Path, Extend the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield, August 2019, https://upfieldbikepath.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/the-good-the-bad-and-the-plain-ugly-assessing-coburg-level-crossing-removal-and-the-upfield-bike-path/ )

I strongly contest the statement: “The project will reduce congestion and significantly improve safety for all transport users.”

Sugar Gums at Moreland Station, planted 1911 with present Upfield Bike Path in foreground

2 Assessment against Heritage Victoria and Heritage Council Policy Guideline Matters to be considered in determining a permit application under section 73(1)(b) of the Heritage Act 1995

I appreciate that “Public Transport Victoria have identified the Upfield line as one of the rail lines experiencing the strongest patronage growth across the Melbourne rail network due to the significant population growth within Melbourne’s northern growth corridor.” The LXRP then state that “The Upfield Rail line will be a major beneficiary of the Melbourne Metro tunnel, with additional services to be added on completion.” This is only true if the other bottleneck for the Upfield line is resolved by the time Metro tunnel opens: track duplication between Gowrie and Upfield. Without converting the current single track to dual track, the bottleneck of ruunning increased services on the Upfield Line will remain.

The Upfield Line needs major work on it’s northern end, including track duplication, a second platform at Upfield, a new station at Campbellfield, and ideally extension via the Somerton link track to Roxburgh Park to Craigieburn, and eventual extension of dual electrified track to Wallan to serve the 17 new suburbs in the Northern Melbourne Fgrowth corridor.

Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road failed to take sufficient fill from the rail cutting, and a shoddy job of signal cabling on the M80 rail bridge was done, as well as failing to construct cycling paths including a tunnel under Camp Road as per their design plans as presented to community consultations. This effectively was work done on the cheap, cost shifting away from the project to be done at some future time.

The Camp Road crossing demonstrates purposeful cost shifting with minimising the work done and thus minimising utility to the community. The current application provides the cheapest design for the Bell to Moreland project without consideration of adequate culture and heritage considerations, let alone improving station accessibility or major improvement to the Upfield bike path use by commuter cyclists.

While LXRP say that “new plants and trees will be incorporated into the reserves”, new plantings do not replace the substantial environmental loss of mature trees, many of them 50 years plus in age, which harbour a broad diversity of species. It will take decades to re-establish such biodiversity and re-establish the canopy shade so important for this area in summer in offering some mitigation of the urban heat island effect in a highly urbanised area.

I understand that some mature trees may need to be removed given the nature of the work, but LXRP have failed to come up with detailed plans to minimise tree destruction. Alternative siting of Moreland Station either to the south of Moreland Road, over Moreland Road, or immediately adjacent and to the north of Moreland road have all been put forward as possibilities to reduce tree destruction and enhance pedestrian accessibility, but LXRP have refused to provide public reasons or costings why each of these solutions could not be employed.

LXRP have failed to demonstrate or show alternative workings or costings to avoid the destruction of so many trees. Until they do provide some alternative work methodologies and costings, their application should be rejected.

2.1.1 Network Benefits

LXRP provide statistics on vehicle movements, train movements and station movements, but have failed to provide any analysis of active transport numbers and movements at the main road crossings and station precincts. Without this information it is difficult to assess the concept designs for active transport, which should be a key component.

LXRP have failed to make their case that there will be a reduction in “lengthy delays to vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and bus services near the level crossing, particularly during morning and evening peak periods”. If anything congestion for vehicles will remain the same and main road crossings will further hinder pedestrian and cycling crossing due to the absence of boom gate time and the ‘Upfield Wave effect’. These crossings, may become even more dangerous to cross, at complete odds to the aim of level crossing removal to make these roads safer for all users.

While LXRP identify that ‘Delays and congestion caused by the operation of the boom gates reduce the effectiveness of train, bus and tram services, the present operation of boom gates actually increasing the priority flow of cyclists and pedestrians crossing main roads. LXRP fails to mention this.

2.1.3 Local Benefits

I strongly contest the assumption that current concept design will “Improved safety by eliminating conflict between road and rail users, pedestrians and cyclists.” Congestion points at the main road crossings with pedestrians and cyclists will continue. Conflict zones between pedestrian and cyclists around station precincts will continue.Ideally better access to station platforms for train passengers should be provided, if necessary through elevated ramps, and cycle bridges should be provided to cyclists at main road crossings.

Reverse priority for active transport should be implemented at Reynard street and Munro Street crossings. While this is likely to be achieved for Reynard Street, it also needs to be implemented at Munro street, perhaps through lights where the default is green for active transport and vehicle set off the light cycle through an in-road traffic sensor. I perceive this solution may be actively resisted.

While there may be a marginal improvement in the reliability of the Upfield line, major improvement will not come until track duplication for the Upfield line is completed and track extension to Craigieburn is done to allow trains to access the Craigieburn maintenance workshops and stabling area.

The improvements to cycling are modest including a section of dedicated bike path, and also increased east-west diffusion possibilities. But the main congestion points and conflict zones remain and the arterial nature and traffic flow of users on the Upfield Bike Path has not been adequately considered or dealt with as part of the concept design.

LXRP says they are “Providing Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Commonwealth) (DDA) compliant access to the stations and across the rail corridor; ” In their initial briefing to Moreland Councillors Moreland Station was only getting a single lift for each platform. This is problematic for disability access when lifts break down or when they are undergoing maintenance. A minimum two lifts per platform are required for redubndancy for ensuring disability access.

The volume of station entries is much more at Coburg with an argument for escalators to be provided for the greater numbers of people accessing the platforms. LXRP have not conceded this.

The present proposed siting of the elevated station at Moreland reduces it’s accessibility to residents on the south side of Moreland Road and better integration with bus services and tram services.

Conclusion

This is a major infrastructure project for our community and it appears it is being done on the cheap with minimal regard to small improvements in pedestrian and station access, improving the Upfield bike path at congestion points and conflict zones, and consideration of community heritage and environmental concerns which would vastly increase its amenity and utility for many decades to come.

The application should be rejected as providing insufficient alternatives in regard to maximisation of retention of trees as part of the heritage overlay, and their heritage, environmental and cultural importance to the community.

Entry filed under: submission, transport, urban forest. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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