Residents’ fight to keep Queen St roundabout grows after having not “heard anything”
A group of residents are begging the City of Melbourne to reconsider its plan to remove a large roundabout next to the Queen Victoria Market, arguing the traffic strategy “is nonsense”.
The council has remained steadfast in its intent to remove the roundabout at Queen St and Franklin St including the intersection’s green space and mature trees after endorsing plans in December 2019 despite strong opposition from residents and community members who recently said the council had been “discreet” over its plans.
The discontinuance of the roundabout would make way for an area known as the “Southern Site” to be developed by the private sector after an 11,892 square-metre parcel of land was gifted to the City of Melbourne by the state government in 2014 to help fund the $250 million renewal of the market’s precinct.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp has boasted that the development would deliver $520 million to the City of Melbourne’s economy with an estimated 326,000 extra visitors shopping at the market each year.
In October, the council confirmed a two-stage competitive process to appoint a developer or consortium for the Southern Site was expected to conclude this year or early 2023 after generating “considerable interest”.
But residents – who sent a strong message to Sally Capp and the council in January last year after brandishing placards saying, “Wrong way Sally, go back” in their desperate attempt to keep the roundabout which they described as a “landmark in its own right”– said the “whole process has been deceptive” and they have “not been told when” the future works would occur or whether public consultation would be conducted.
“The purpose of the removal is not for traffic or safety reasons but to allow for the roundabout and road to be closed and sold off as a development site,” resident David Legge said.
“We say that Franklin St and the roundabout is a public road that has been used by Victorians to access the market and the city for 150 plus years and that to close a public road and sell it as a development site is outrageous, corrupt and simply disgusting.”
Under the proposal, the development would offer “unparalleled views” of Flagstaff Gardens, and deliver up to 25 per cent affordable housing, with more than 600 total residential units catering for 1100 new residents.
It will also see a 1.75-hectare public open space created within the market precinct.
Planning to remove the Queen St roundabout, as well as the design of the intersection is under way, which would see the northern intersection of Franklin and Queen streets signalised, and bring about “numerous safety benefits for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,” the council said in a recent statement, which had remained unchanged since September last year.
However, residents have not given up their fight to save their roundabout after expressing concern they had “not heard anything”.
According to Mr Legge, the southern site development would dramatically affect their neighbourhood amenity, noting the “business case is a fantasy, and the traffic plan is nonsense” as it would “significantly impact the general access for cars to the market”.
“The whole process has been deceptive, calling it the ‘Market Precinct Renewal’ as a justification to change the zoning around the market with no benefit to the future of the market itself,” he said.
“The market belongs to all Victorians and should be accessible to all, not just tourists and people on bikes. The only people that will benefit from these changes to the roads and traffic conditions in the area are the property developers. Everyone else will lose.” •
Mr Legge said there would also be no benefit from the new public open space, arguing the current 2.5-hectare car park “could be easily modified with landscaping and trees in a way that could have multiple uses including as a carpark when required”.
Resident Richard Grace said while the CBD desperately needed more open spaces, there should not be the “continuation of overshadowing of cheap developments that is devaluing the area and causing much disharmony in the process”.
Another resident of 20 years, Bob Evans, who has lived in the area for 20 years and has long argued that the move to remove the roundabout represented nothing more than a “land grab” by the council to maximise its yield from the Southern Site, said depending on the outcome of the state election in November, he intended “to speak to whoever the next planning minister is to see what’s being proposed and how we can be consulted”.
Friends of Queen Victoria Market president Mary-Lou Howie also opposed the removal of the roundabout, saying it would make traffic access to the market difficult, particularly from the west.
“One wonders if the council is deliberately strangling Vic Market, perhaps with developers and a transport hub in mind. Where is the traffic management plan for the market? It appears like light bulb decision making,” she said.
Caption: Residents living next to Queen Victoria Market are fighting to keep the Queen St roundabout.
Photo: Rachel Litwin.