News

Is trail going off the rails?

by
December 06, 2017

Residents along the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail are seeking more information about the feasibility study.

A LETTER from Mitchell Shire Council about the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail has left many residents stumped.

The letter stated the rail trail’s feasibility study, which has been shrouded in mystery to date, could be ‘‘adopted’’ in a council meeting on December 18 — leading many locals to fear they would have little to no additional input into the controversial plans.

However, council has said this is not the case.

‘‘Council would like to apologise if the letter to landholders caused any confusion,’’ a council spokesperson said.

‘‘Councillors have been briefed on the draft feasibility study and will formally consider whether to endorse the study for public release at the December council meeting [on December 18].

‘‘If the study is endorsed for release in December, it will be available shortly after the council meeting.’’

The spokesperson clarified the next steps for the rail trail would not take place until the subsequent council meeting in February.

‘‘Community members can ask questions or raise any concerns at the Community Questions and Hearings Committee meetings which are held the week prior to [both] council meetings. They can also contact council staff or councillors at any time.’’

Pyalong’s Marla Stone urged locals to raise their concerns before February.

‘‘It’s important people read the report once it’s released so they can ask important questions about project cost, route and other considerations,’’ she said.

‘‘At previous meetings, council told us funds for initial development would be sought from the state and federal governments, however Mitchell Shire would be responsible for upkeep in the Mitchell section.

‘‘We’re concerned about how much this ongoing maintenance will cost and, in turn, affect our rates.

‘‘And, of course, the route of the rail trail is of huge significance to people. For some landholders, the proposed route bisects their property, while others face the loss of rear access to their properties due to the rail trail.’’

The possible 65km rail trail would run from Wallan to Heathcote via Wandong and Heathcote Junction, with an extension to Wallan via Hidden Valley.

A project between Mitchell Shire, the City of Greater Bendigo and the state government, it would possibly follow parts of the disused rail corridor from Heathcote Junction to Heathcote.

Ms Stone said she was disappointed with council’s communication of plans to date.

‘‘After starting a Facebook group earlier in the year to try and connect people with questions and concerns, I have tried to secure information and updates since the consultation closed in April,’’ she said.

‘‘There have been no updates to ratepayers or landholders about the feasibility study, no updates to the webpage and only limited information in response to my queries of when the report would be released.

‘‘It’s been a frustrating process.’’

Locals can submit questions to the Community Questions and Hearings Committee on Monday, December 11. Questions should be received by 11am and can be submitted online at www.engagingmitchellshire.com/question-time or via hard copy at council’s Customer and Library Service Centres.

A report of the finalised feasibility study will be considered at the December council meeting on Monday, December 18 at 7pm at the Broadford Civic Centre.

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