Victorian landscape architects have come out swinging against Melbourne’s East-West Link, saying it may disastrously alter the landscape.

Critics say the East-West Link poses a threat to the ecologically important sites of Royal Park and Moonee Ponds Creek. The impact the development will have on the area’s open space has landscape architects seriously concerned about the repercussions and irreversible implications.

Tunnel boring in Melbourne’s largest urban park, Royal Park, is expected to begin near the Upfield railway line as part of the 18-kilometre connection, which will extend from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road.

Victorian chapter of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) president Kirsten Bauer released a position paper saying she and fellow members have been excluded from a serious process of evaluation and consultation on the project.

Bauer says Linking Melbourne Authority’s proposal lacks detailed design information and “is not adequately communicating the substantial visual, environmental and amenity impacts of the current proposal on open space and the future livability of Melbourne’s inner north.”

The paper also states that Linking Melbourne Authority “has not provided any scaled drawings, traffic projections or detail about construction and proposed remediation.”

According to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, the government plans to protect and restore affected parkland. He said the whole process will be delivered sustainably.

Melbourne East West Link Map

Melbourne East West Link Map

“A lot of work has been undertaken already,” said Napthine, “including geotechnical drilling, flora and fauna studies and extensive ongoing community consultation to inform the best design for the project.”

Bauer countered those claims, however, saying that not enough information has been gathered or shared.

“The design, environmental impact and cost benefit of lower impact road alignment options that would, or should have been explored, are not revealed,” she said.

The position paper sums up the proposal as offering the community one unsatisfactory design solution which has been inadequately presented and presented with spin to make it seem more palatable.

Two major public transport groups, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) and the Bus Association Victoria have also condemned the project.

PTUA spokesman Paul Westcott said the project, the cost of which is estimated at $8 billion, ‘disastrous’ while Bus Association Victoria’s executive director Chris Lowe says the government should prioritise a rail tunnel rather than a road tunnel.

Bauer says since the East-West Link is to be the biggest infrastructure in Victoria’s history, “the public deserves a rigorous and transparent design development and evaluation process before deciding on such a significant commitment that will influence the character, quality and sustainability of Melbourne for many decades.”

The paper calls on Melbourne City Council to demand an alternative option that will not negatively impact Moonee Ponds Creek and Royal Park. If an alternative is not offered, Bauer suggests the project should be abandoned altogether to protect the city’s ecologically significant green space.