Soldiers Hill residents are 'stunned' the City of Ballarat began roadworks in the suburb without completing promised consultation, after CEO Evan King gave an on-the-record commitment no work would be undertaken without prior discussion.
The 'duplication' works on Doveton Crescent commenced on Tuesday and ceased after an alleged confrontation between a resident and the contractor. Photographs show excavations between trees and asphalt being laid and rolled from the road edge to the bluestone gutters.
The car parks are part of an agreement between Regional Development Victoria and the City of Ballarat to replace spaces lost to the Gov Hub development. The works, including formalising existing car parks, were approved by councillors last August as part of a $2 million state government investment
In a statement, CoB said "'duplication' works had commenced in Doveton Crescent, after consultation with residents, however the contractor has stopped works at this stage until the consultation is complete."
The Courier understands Doveton Crescent residents were doorknocked and asked if they objected to the works; no objections were received. It is not clear if the doorknocking was formal consultation.
Mr King made the consultation promise at the City of Ballarat's May 26 meeting in response to a 360-plus signature petition, later tabled, asking for the car park works to be halted so further investigation could be completed.
"It's fair to say councillors and officers have heard loud and clear the concerns of residents in Soldiers Hill around the proposed works," Mr King told the meeting.
"A lot of these works were... designed and developed way back in 2015-2018 as part of a broader parking plan, and it is fair to say a lot of time has passed since then, and I think there was also an expectation at that time, that when we got to doing works in particular streets, that there would be a level of consultation, street by street.
"I commit to... the Soldiers Hill group that no works will commence, and that a consultation session, not an information session, so a consultation session, will occur... so to have a conversation with the affected landowners in those areas, to really have a look at what works are needed, what works aren't needed, from anything to 'let's do absolutely nothing' to obviously the current proposal, how do we protect the trees... so a genuine conversation around what is the most appropriate works in that area."
Mr King also promised to have discussions with heritage consultants.
Resident Dr Christina Sadowski who presented the petition to council said residents were "stunned to see that works had commenced."
"Residents are disheartened and dismayed by the complete disregard for heritage considerations, and for transparent communication and consultation, that has plagued this process," Dr Sadowski said.
"We are disappointed that council has started works despite the public affirmations by the CEO Evan King."
Residents were also sent a text message after the consultation period was postponed due to the lockdown, saying "given the concerns and issues raised we believe a Teams (ie online) meeting would not be a proper way to facilitate the consultation session...
I commit to... the Soldiers Hill group that no works will commence, and that a consultation session... will occur...City of Ballarat CEO Evan King, May 26
"The project has been paused with no works to commence pending the outcome of our discussions and subsequent approval from council," said Katrina Ring, executive assistant to the director of development and growth Natalie Robertson.
The Courier understands a message was sent by CoB to residents on Tuesday blaming the start of work on a 'communication error with the contractor'.
A statement from City of Ballarat says another community meeting "to discuss issues and consult... on the proposed Soldiers Hill works" will be held on June 15. Asphalt sealing works will not go ahead in Ligar and Clarendon streets, but will in Neill and Seymour streets, under the current tender and in consultation with RDV.
"The following works are proposed under the current tendered contract, with works expected to comprise:
- Doveton Crescent to be constructed with an asphalt surface, full tree surrounds and applicable number of bollards
- Seymour Street (from Doveton Crescent to Neill Street) is to be constructed with an asphalt surface, full tree surrounds and applicable number of bollards
- Seymour Street (from Neill Street to Ligar Street) is to be constructed with a two-coat seal, full tree surrounds and applicable number of bollards
- Armstrong Street Nth is to be constructed with an asphalt surface, full tree surrounds and applicable number of bollards
- Neill Street is to be constructed with a two-coat seal, full tree surrounds and applicable number of bollards
Proceeding with the above works will also include 63 new tree plantings with Doveton Crescent as the first location for works to commence."
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