Progress Street VCAT bid dismissed

An illustration of the redesigned Fowler Road bridge at Progress Street, Dandenong South. Picture: LEVEL CROSSING REMOVAL PROJECT

by Sahar Foladi

The state’s planning tribunal has dismissed a suite of applications against the State Government’s controversial Progress St level-crossing closure as “misconceived.”

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal passed its decision on May 20 following the preliminary hearings carried on 13 and 14 February and 6 March 2024.

The case put forward by two applicants, South Dandenong Holdings (SDH) and Cadence Property Group (CPG) sought a review of the Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny’s decision that an “adequate” consultation occurred in regard to the controversial project in Dandenong South.

SDH and CPG also sought declaration that Ms Kilkenny’s satisfaction with public consultation was affected by “jurisdictional error”.

As part of the State Government’s plans for a level-crossing free Pakenham line by 2025, the level-crossing on Progress Street is planned to be permanently closed – a move that is fiercly opposed by neighbouring businesses on safety grounds.

Large, heavy vehicles from a number of businesses in the cul-de-sac from Progress Street to Nathan Road will be diverted onto Fowler Road via a bridge and onto South Gippsland Highway.

A signalised intersection will be upgraded at South Gippsland Hwy to accommodate “increased traffic and heavy vehicle movements”.

SDH and CPG’s application was made against Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (for Level Crossing Removal Project) with the Minister for Planning as the relevant authority.

VCAT Deputy President Teresa Bisucci dismissed the proceedings as “misconceived”, finding that the applicants had no standing to bring the application under the Planning and Environment Act.

She also found that “at best” the project affected the applicants’ business interests but didn’t directly affect their land on Nathan Road – which was outside the project’s area.

“I find that the applicants are not owners of land directly affected by the report that summarises the feedback from the consultation process and explains how that feedback has been considered and responded to the satisfaction of the Minister.”

The plan to close off Progress St has been long disputed by nearby businesses including on Nathan Road and Fowler Road as previously reported by Star Journal.

Andrew Hamer, who is managing director of Pakaflex, located next to the level-crossing, was one of the first to advocate against the project and raise safety concerns.

He and several other businesses are applying to VCAT to obtain the project’s Safety Audits Reports from the LXRP under Freedom of Information (FOI).

Mr Hamer and other businesses deem the plans to be unsafe considering the large traffic from the three areas consisting of enormous A and B Doubles, semi-trailers and trucks.

Just last month, an Australia Post spokesperson told Star Journal that it had expressed its safety concerns to the LXRP on behalf of the postal service’s letter centre on Nathan Road.

“The safety and security of our people is the highest priority for Australia Post. We have raised our safety and operational efficiency concerns directly with the LXRP and have requested additional details regarding safety assessments.

“Our focus remains on working with the LXRP to mitigate our concerns.

“The Dandenong Letter Centre processes the vast majority of all letters sent within Victoria, along with some small parcels. “

Meanwhile, a petition is active by the Opposition Member for South Eastern Metropolitan region MP Ann-Marie Hermans to stop the closure of the level-crossing.

Currently, it sits on 574 signatures closing on 20 September 2023.