The North East Link (NEL) is a proposed freeway standard new road linking the Metropolitan Ring Road (M80) to the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen Road.
Update on North East Link legal challenge
The legal case to challenge the Minister for Planning’s decision to approve the North East Link (NEL) has been listed with the Supreme Court. The case will be heard on the 14 September 2020 and will be presided over by The Honourable Justice Garde AO.
A Directions hearing was held on 24 April 2020 to consider the merits of our case, set the timetable for the case and subsequently approve the case to be heard in the Supreme Court.
Urban Design Strategy for North East Link approved
On 23 March 2020, the Minister for Planning approved the North East Link Urban Design Strategy (UDS) 28MB PDF.
The UDS aims to provide an urban design vision and set expectations for the project. It seeks to guide design elements to mitigate the project’s visual and landscape impacts.
A draft version of the UDS was included in the Environment Effects Statement (EES). Feedback on this draft during this EES process resulted in some changes. The most significant change was the inclusion of Urban Design Framework Plans (UDFPs) to provide greater design guidance at critical intersections and nodes such as the Bulleen Road and Eastern Freeway interchange.
Sections relevant to Boroondara include:
- Yarra River Valley - page 47 (see pages 56 - 62)
- Koonung Creek Valley - page 65 (see pages 70 - 75)
- UDFP for the Eastern Freeway Interchange - page 153
Councils launch North East Link legal challenge
Banyule, Boroondara and Whitehorse and Manningham Councils have commenced legal action to challenge the decisions on the North East Link Project (NELP).
The councils maintain it was not possible to properly assess the impacts of the project using the proposed reference design. Other than in the most general terms, nobody really knows what is proposed to be built. Too much about the project has been left to be determined at a later time which excludes the community from the process. This is not the way this process should work. It is critical that all decisions made in relation to this significant project are made with a clearer understanding of what is proposed.
We are concerned the full extent of environmental and community impacts remain unknown as no actual design was available for assessment. By the time that a design is finalised, there will not be the proper opportunity to provide input and make submissions in relation to the potential impacts.
Boroondara and the other councils remain hopeful of achieving better outcomes for their communities.
Minister approves the North East Link project
On 5 December 2019 the Minister for Planning released his assessment report and the Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) report about the NEL.
The Minister’s assessment report and the IAC report are available on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) website.
The Minister stated in his report:
“Having studied the proponent’s environmental effects statement (EES), listened to the community and other stakeholders and considered the report of the Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) that I appointed, it is my assessment that the project will meet the evaluation criteria that I set for it.”
“I find that the project’s adverse environmental effects can be appropriately managed and will be acceptable considering the project’s significant benefits.”
Responses to specific Boroondara impacts
The Minister’s assessment did not include recommendations on the relocation and construction of the Boroondara Tennis Centre and reinstatement of the Freeway Golf Course. It did note the stakeholders in the Bulleen Park precinct would need to continue negotiations to achieve an acceptable outcome.
In his assessment (page 35), the Minister acknowledges that the design approaches for the five interchanges, including the Eastern Freeway Interchange, could be improved from those proposed in the Reference Design to reduce potential impacts on visual amenity, landscape amenity and improve functioning of the interchanges. The Minister also recommends that the footprint of the interchanges be reduced. However, he acknowledges that if detailed design cannot reduce the footprint, then while the impacts will be significant, in the context of the overall benefits of the project, they would be acceptable.
The Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) report made 29 recommendations, including building a longer tunnel to the north, designating the Simpsons Barracks as a ‘no-go’ zone and not using Borlase Reserve as a tunnel boring machine launch/retrieval site. These three recommendations, designed to protect nearby residents and the valuable environment in the Barracks, were not supported by the Minister. The IAC was critical of the use of a reference design in the EES, noting it was incredibly difficult to comprehend the real impacts of the project.
The release of the Minister’s report follows the conclusion of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) assessment process including:
- release of the EES for public consultation (May 2019)
- an Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) panel hearing to assess submissions on the EES from councils, community members and other stakeholders (July to September 2019)
- preparation of a report and recommendations by the IAC (September to October 2019)
- submission of the IAC report to the Minister for Planning (October 2019).
North East Link Planning Scheme Amendment gazetted
A notice of approval of the Planning Scheme Amendment GC98 for the North East Link (NEL) project was published in the Victorian Government Gazette on 3 January 2020. The Amendment facilitates the NEL by exempting the project from the usual requirements of the various council planning schemes. It allows the use and development of land for the project in accordance with the specific control and conditions contained in the associated incorporated document. You can view the Planning Scheme Amendment and associated documents on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) website.
In approving and gazetting the amendment, the Minister has argued the significance, complexity, duration and geographic extent of the project warrants his intervention by assuming the role of decision maker on matters related to the use and development of land for the project.
Investigations and early works are underway
The North East Link Project (NELP) has appointed early works contractors CPB to relocate water, gas, electricity and sewer mains within the project area. This work has began in February 2020 and will continue through most of 2021. A map of the locations where early works are currently underway can be found on the North East Link website.
The local impact of the North East Link
Corridor Option A is the Victorian Government’s preferred option for the North East Link. It proposes significant widening of the Eastern Freeway between Bulleen Road and Doncaster Road and the provision of a physically separated, dedicated busway from the Doncaster Park and Ride to the city.
We strongly oppose North East Link corridor Option A as it will have a direct impact on Boroondara’s liveability. We believe corridor Option C best serves the transport needs of the region and project criteria.
We will continue to advocate to protect Boroondara’s environment, community facilities and local amenity.
Ask NELP a question
Visit the North East Link website to submit a question to their project team.
Documents and links
- Minister for Planning’s Assessment Report on the North East Link.
- Minister for Planning’s Assessment Report – Appendix A – Environmental Performance Requirement.
- Inquiry and Assessment Committee Report on the North East Link.
- Engage Victoria website with links to NEL Environment Effects Statement submissions, recordings of the North East Link IAC panel hearing and all documents tabled during the hearing.
- City of Boroondara’s joint opening submission to the Inquiry and Advisory Committee Panel.
- City of Boroondara’s joint closing submission to the Inquiry and Advisory Committee Panel.
- City of Boroondara closing statement on Bulleen Park and the Boroondara Tennis Centre.
- North East Link website