At the Surf Coast Shire Council meeting of 22 May 2018 council adopted the Unsealed Road And Street Network Strategy. The new strategy is a combination of the Sealed Road Network Management Plan 2015 and the Unsealed Road Network Strategy, which is the outcome of a report commissioned by council from consultants, AECOM.
This strategy is aimed at better management of council’s 574 km of unsealed roads to replace an ad hoc response to residents’ requests for the sealing of roads.
AECOMM has designed an assessment tool to help better identify unsealed roads that require attention. This tool takes into account strategic importance, for example a school bus route; road surface conditions; severity of vehicle crashes; population growth; benefit to bordering dwellings; and traffic volumes. Each of these criteria is assigned a weighting to arrive at a final score.
Of major concern to AIDA is that the strategy does not take into account neighbourhood character. AIDA can see no reason why neighbourhood character was not included as one of the assessment tools. The final draft of the report did acknowledge that local community response to upgrades should always be considered, but sadly this paragraph was removed in the council agenda (adopted) copy of the strategy.
Local roads that were previously ear-marked for sealing, but then rejected due to residents’ concerns, have scored highly on the assessment tool. This may be in part due to the omission of a neighbourhood character criterion, but the result is that these roads may now be reconsidered for sealing when they were previously unequivocally rejected.
Local community sentiment is well-documented both by the shire and AIDA. AIDA’s questionnaires of resident viewpoints over the last thirty years, the Statement of Neighbourhood Character in the Planning Scheme, and the decisions of two council citizens’ juries on local road sealing all support the maintenance of unsealed roads.
Another concern for AIDA was the paucity and inaccuracy of data, which results in the traffic volume scores being questionable. Data for many unsealed roads do not exist, or where they do exist, measurements were not taken consistently, nor did they take into account seasonal variation.
The sealing of a road is mainly funded by a special rate or charge scheme. The adoption of the scheme assumes there is a benefit to residents, but does not take into account the benefit of retaining an unsealed road. It has been a long-held belief by AIDA that sealing of a road may be detrimental to residents due to increased traffic volumes and speed in residential streets, as well as loss of neighbourhood character.
This has been proven true where streets have been unsympathetically sealed in the past. The cost to residents, who are often opposed to the sealing of their road, is yet another compelling reason why community attitudes should have been included in the tool.
At the council meeting of 22 May AIDA decided to approach councillors with a question with notice addressed to councillors and council officers. The question asked was:
“AIDA is concerned that the strategy’s proposals as applied to Aireys Inlet and district’s streets fail to reflect their preferred local character – as per the Statement of Neighbourhood Character in the Planning Scheme, the decisions of two council citizens’ juries on local road sealing and the 75 percent majority view expressed by local residents in AIDA’s opinion surveys. Sadly 23 per cent of local streets have been sealed since the inclusion of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay in the Planning Scheme and the Unsealed Road and Street Network Strategy’s proposals would further reduce unsealed local streets to around only 20 per cent.
AIDA requests council does not adopt the Unsealed Road and Street Network Strategy until it can be demonstrated that the strategy’s proposals reflect the preferred character of Aireys Inlet to Eastern View’s streets.
How can the proposed strategy be modified to better value and protect the character of unsealed streets in our area as preferred in the Planning Scheme and as strongly valued by local residents?”
The question was answered by Anne Howard, General Manager Governance and Infrastructure. Anne said that the strategy should not be considered as a piece of work that is directed at trying to seal unsealed roads, but rather about recognising roads that need investment, and that this investment will not always be about the sealing of a road. She said many factors, including neighbourhood character, would be considered when determining the appropriate treatment for a road, only one of which was sealing.
Later, when the adoption of the strategy was being debated by councillors, both councillors Coker and Smith reiterated this, both using Aireys as an example of where treatments such as clearing roadside vegetation may be preferred to sealing. Both mentioned safety as a major factor in deciding if a road will be targeted.
In summary, we have views expressed by councillors and a council officer about the importance of considering neighbourhood character in deciding whether a road should be sealed, but an inadequate assessment tool. AIDA will now have to wait and see what the outcome will be, especially in regard to our highly valued unsealed roads, previously considered and then subsequently rejected for sealing.
Frieda Wachsmann AIDA Newsletter June 2018
Update July 2012
In July 2012 the AIDA executive met with Sunil Bhalla, Director of Infrastructure in the Surf Coast Shire. One issue brought up was sealing of intersections – AIDA expressed real concern at the recent paving of numerous intersections in Aireys Inlet in which extensive areas each side of some intersections have been sealed despite no need having been demonstrated.
Mr Bhalla agreed, pointing out that although there was an overarching shire policy to seal intersections in rural areas where traffic is likely to travel at 100 km per hour and improved braking surface is required, there appeared to be no logical reason for this to be transposed to the local streets of Aireys Inlet. VicRoads required intersections onto the Great Ocean Road to be sealed, but Mr Bhalla stated that no further works on local intersections would be carried out other than routine maintenance.
Barbara Fletcher AIDA Newsletter October 2012
Update July 2012 – Sealing by Stealth
The residents of Aireys Inlet and surrounding towns have fought for many years to maintain the unsealed roads in the area. Unsealed roads slow down traffic and minimise water run-off. From an aesthetic point of view, they contribute to the coastal village atmosphere of our towns. Sealed roads lead to an increase in traffic and speed, in addition, to the suburbanisation of our towns.
Over the years the shire has sealed roads, arguing that sealed roads have reduced maintenance costs. In 2009 most of Fairhaven was sealed after a long and bitter battle with the shire. Recently, in May 2012, Precinct 2 residents overthrew an intention to declare a special charge scheme in a first ever victory, when more than half of the residents voted against the charge to seal roads and do associated drainage works in Precinct 2.
AIDA has long argued that if the total cost of sealing is considered then regular maintenance of unsealed roads is the more economic option. However, the sticking point here is that the shire raises the initial capital cost of sealing by imposing a special charge scheme on residents for capital works. In effect, the shire offloads much of the initial cost of road sealing onto the residents. The shire’s rationale is that residents receive a benefit in having a sealed road; however, this view is not shared by many residents, who would much prefer unsealed roads that were regularly maintained.
In 2006 the Aireys Inlet road and drainage reference panel divided Aireys into precincts based on water catchment areas. Precinct 1 was most of the eastern part of Aireys on the ocean side of the Great Ocean Road with the western boundary just west of Albert Street. The reference panel recommended that no roads in Precinct 1 should be sealed, and vegetated swale drains should be installed instead of a more formal approach. This decision was fully upheld by the citizens’ jury.
The decisions of the citizens’ juries from both precincts made the residents’ views about sealing roads patently clear, so it was astonishing when, earlier this year, AIDA was informed that the intersection of Beach Road and Eaglerock Parade (plus 50 metres along each road) had been sealed with spray seal (see photo below). One AIDA member was informed by a council officer that the decision to seal the intersection was part of the shire’s intersection sealing program. A search of the shire’s website fails to find any mention of such a program. The council officer then went on to say that the priority of determining which intersections are sealed is based on community requests, road hierarchy, traffic volumes and road safety.
This approach to our roads is disturbing, especially given the community’s attitude to sealing of roads. The intersection of Eaglerock Parade and Beach Road could hardly be described as dangerous, or busy. That roads should be sealed as a matter of safety defies logic, as sealed roads enable cars to travel faster, especially once they come off an unsealed part of the road. That sealing of a road improves vehicle braking and traction with the road surface is also hard to understand. Further, the sealing of only 50 metres from the intersection creates an unstable interface between the sealed and unsealed sections. It is here that the road surface is most vulnerable, resulting in degradation of the surface, and dangerous driving conditions.
Further correspondence with another council officer stated that intersections were sealed as a matter of safety, and that the sealing was spray seal, considered to be a short-term solution envisaged to last not more than five years. The question then is what happens when the spray seal breaks down? Will the residents be left with an unsightly mess of pot holes at that intersection?
It is a great pity that such a visually pleasing road as Eaglerock Parade has now been compromised by a large patch of bitumen.
Several weeks later AIDA received news that two more intersections had been sealed: one at the intersection of Boundary Road and Great Ocean Road, and the other at the intersection of Hopkins Street and Hartley Street. Once again, neither of these intersections is renowned for being particularly dangerous, and both are in Precinct 1, where both the reference panel and the citizens’ jury went to great lengths to ensure that no roads be sealed.
It seems as though the shire, having come up against such community resistance to sealing roads, has decided to seal by stealth. We are now seeing the ad hoc sealing of roads, to the detriment of our coastal character. If intersections can be sealed to between 50 and 100 metres along the road, then there really is no point maintaining the bit of unsealed road between the intersections as the informal coastal character is lost.
What makes the sealing of Hopkins and Hartley Streets, and Boundary Road and Great Ocean Road even more interesting is that these works were carried out after a council resolution had been passed on 28 March 2012 stating that the community had to be consulted before the start of design works in sensitive coastal areas.
10. Endorse for all future infrastructure solutions in sensitive coastal areas a design approach in sympathy with the local neighbourhood character and request that engagement with impacted communities occurs prior to the commencement of design work to ensure communities contribute to proposed infrastructure solutions.
Clearly, this did not happen in the case of the sealing of these intersections.
Our roads are being sealed despite the wishes of residents. It is difficult to fathom why the council persists in their pursuit to suburbanise our streets. In 2000 less than a third of the roads were sealed from Aireys Inlet to Eastern View; by 2010 it was almost a half. The outcome of the citizens’ juries and community reference panels have clearly stated residents’ views, but still the council perseveres with these unwanted capital works. As residents we must continue to lobby our local councillors and stop the irreversible suburbanisation of our beautiful streets.
Frieda Wachsmann AIDA Newsletter July 2012
April 2012 – Road Sealing and Local Character?
The charge given to the Precinct 2 citizens’ jury by council was to determine ‘what road and drainage work do we need / want / can afford which preserves / enhances the environment.’
AIDA was deeply concerned that the proposed scope of road sealing in the Special Charge Scheme failed completely to recognise and preserve – let alone enhance – the well-documented preferred local character of our area.Informal gravel roads, vegetated nature strips and casual shared pedestrian use of roadways are central elements of the local character of Aireys Inlet to Eastern View – as recognised, we believe, by both the community and the council. Supporting this policy, and giving it extra weight, the preservation of the unique character of Victoria’s coastal townships is also an important objective of the Victorian Coastal Strategy. But this local character is under constant threat, and there are a number of challenges, circumstances and forces acting to degrade it.
For example, in the year 2000, 72 per cent of local residential roads were gravel and only 28 per cent were bituminised. But over the next five years, our gravel roads had been whittled back to 68 per cent. By 2010, on the completion of the Fairhaven Roads and Drainage Scheme (for which AIDA also opposed the sealing of roads) the proportion of our district’s residential gravel roads had been further reduced to just 55 per cent – with an associated increase of 5.5 km in bituminised residential road surfacing – all in only ten years.
The graph below illustrates this progressive bituminisation of our area’s residential streets over the past decade and also shows the future impact of the present scope of the Precinct 2 Scheme.
One additional result of this process is that as local character is eroded in this way, it is very hard, or even impossible, to ever restore it.
Currently, in 2012, Precinct 2 roads are 52 per cent gravel and 48 per cent sealed (made up of Bambra Road and the smaller sealed roads in precinct subdivisions). The overall ‘feel’ of the precinct is still of pleasantly informal gravel roads with indigenously vegetated nature strips. However, council’s proposed scheme will permanently transform and suburbanise this character, leaving only 20 per cent of the precinct’s roads in gravel (limited to the northern end of the precinct) and 80 per cent of the roads constructed with a bitumen seal.
An additional problem with this trend is that sealed streets encourage increased local vehicle speeds, and also reduce tyre noise, which signals approaching vehicles to pedestrians. In a situation where most residential streets are, and will continue to be, shared by family groups as pedestrian paths, sealed roads will reduce pedestrian safety and local amenity.
AIDA believes that with such compelling reasons to preserve and enhance the local character of Aireys Inlet and district it should not be beyond our abilities within the shire to develop or identify ways of achieving this. After all, one of the citizens’ jury’s expert witnesses, George Giummarra, who is Australia’s foremost expert on the design of unsealed roads, has already provided his opinion to the citizens’ jury that this is achievable.
It is clear that unless the remorseless process of bituminising and concreting our township’s roads and paths is recognised and reversed we are destined to become just another suburb situated along the Great Ocean Road. AIDA appeals to council to act to protect Aireys Inlet’s local character before it is too late, and not allow this to happen.
Ian Godfrey – adapted from AIDA Newsletter April 2012