Tired of waiting
A LEONGATHA businessman who feared his premises would be demolished as part of VicRoads’ ‘alternative heavy vehicle route’ was told the road may not be built for decades.
A VicRoads spokesperson refused to say how long the town would wait for an alternative heavy vehicle route, but conceded that construction “is not expected to start for some time”.
Despite the fact that no firm dates have been set, VicRoads has allocated $270,000 “for the planning study component” of the project.
R & R Building Consultants’ Richard Cleveland – whose business premises was earmarked for destruction to make way for the planned route up Hughes and Long streets – was told unofficially by VicRoads there has no money for the alternative heavy vehicle route plan.
Mr Cleveland said he first learnt about the possibility his business could be bulldozed in 2008 after South Gippsland Shire Council released its commissioned Korumburra and Leongatha Traffic Study. Consequently, he has done little to maintain the building, the oldest standing commercial property in town.
“The bypass and the destruction of the building may never happen. As to what is going to happen to this building, and when,
they couldn’t say. I’ve been told nothing may happen for the next five, 10, 20 or 40 years,” he said.
“But I need to know what will happen. I can’t do anything and I can’t wait for 40 years. It’s pretty hard when you hear about something like this in 2008, and here we are, in almost 2013 – and we’re still waiting. They’ve been talking about a Leongatha bypass for almost 40 years.
“I would like to see it happen, but I know they don’t have any money. You have to accept progress. Most people want this to happen.”
A VicRoads spokesperson said the roads authority was “working with South Gippsland Shire Council, Department of Transport, Public Transport Victoria, VicTrack and numerous other stakeholders on design concepts, mostly around the reconfiguration of intersections”.
“Although construction of the alternate route is not expected to start for some time, the preferred route has been identified and is currently part of the Leongatha Structure Plan. VicRoads is currently in the process to identify any land required for the construction of the bypass, so it can be reserved in the South Gippsland Planning Scheme,” she said.
“Designs and options are expected to be open for comment to the community and stakeholders by mid next year, as part of the Planning Scheme Amendment process.”
Last week VicRoads hosted a meeting of landholders along the route. While more than a few attended, many others stayed away – sick of the talk surrounding the proposed project. Some cynics remain doubtful the project will get off the ground in their lifetimes.
Michael Westaway from Westaway Ford said he would be a “very rich man if he had a dollar for every time the corner of Hughes Street had been surveyed”.
Leongatha Bowling Club board chairman Allan Rayson said the only concerns the club had was losing some of its parking on Hughes Street. But, like Mr Cleveland, he doesn’t believe anything will happen in the near future.
“We’re really not too concerned. We need to get a bypass, otherwise the town will be in all sorts of trouble. But the pace at which these things happen sort of suggests that nothing will happen for some time yet,” he said.
“The bypass has been spoken about for decades.”
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