ARARAT - Ararat Rural City Council has refined its preferred route of a proposed Ararat highway bypass after consultation with affected landowners, but admits that its preferred route does not bind VicRoads to use that route.
Ararat Rural City Council last year declared a preferred route for the Ararat bypass, based on the two northern routes that VicRoads presented publicly in 2011. The several VicRoads routes had been developed in VicRoads' preliminary investigations to establish the viability of the routes.
Council in determining the preferred route ruled out some of the VicRoads' routes as being unsuitable based on length, access and the cutting of residential land.
Council has endeavoured to refine that bypass route by seeking the views of the affected residents and landowners. Many of the farms and landowners affected have special needs that can be accommodated by minor changes to the preferred route. Some of special needs include the need for direct access to water and dams, clear road access, major effect on dwellings and infrastructure and the cutting of access for stock and farm vehicles. The landowners also highlighted physical issues of the land that might have a bearing on the preferred route. These include local knowledge of wet and boggy ground and the position of significant aboriginal features.
Council invited affected landowners to discuss their issues and problems with Council officers.
Very few landowners chose not to give their views. While some of the views on the preferred route were contradictory, where individual landowners had opposite views of where the bypass should go, Council officers have endeavoured to put together the refined preferred route based on the least disruption to farm businesses. The viability of farm businesses in the Farming Zone has been Council's prime concern.
The major issues were:
Preserving access to stock movement.
Preserving access to water infrastructure.
Preserving the integrity of farm holdings.
Preserving amenity and access to homes and dwellings.
Preserving access to farm sheds and infrastructure.
Council said that in many cases there is a trade off of some of these criteria within and between land holdings.
Council officers in a report to Council outlined the preferred changes (see image).
Council officers said the changes at the easterly end are to move the start of the preferred route closer to Ararat for several reasons. It will allow the highway service station to be within close visual distance of the bypass take off point and preserves the viability of farming enterprises located on highly fertile land by making use of public land. The route then swings back to, and then follows the existing VicRoads' route northward close to Warryatkin Road. This is to preserve access to the farmland west of Warryatkin Road to Warrak Road, access to the Abattoir resting paddocks and avoid the Motorcycle Club land.
The refined route then moves back to towards the northern VicRoads' route to avoid the low lying land north of Green Hill Lake and the Hopkins Correctional Centre. It swings westward close to the northern VicRoads' route to preserve large stud holdings and dips around contiguous land holdings and pine plantings before rejoining the northern most VicRoads' route.
Council was told by officers in the report that the refined bypass route responds to landholder concerns and provides a practical route.
However, the route that VicRoads ultimately chooses will be developed through a range of highly detailed engineering, environmental and heritage assessments. Council in declaring a preferred route is putting forward the community of Ararat's views based on interviews with affected parties and the wider community.
Cr Fay Hull said the bypass would be some time coming but having that preferred route had a lot of advantages.
"The reason for the change to the route is to get feedback from members of the community, and they are in the scheme of things minor amendments, but that just makes it a route which has greater amenity for those who are affected by it and I think it's wise to adopt this motion," she said.