Horsham bypass action needed, says community group

A LACK of confidence in Horsham council’s ability to make a decision about the city’s bypass has forced a group of concerned residents to take action. 

Residents have formed a new action group and are calling for council to explore alternate bypass routes.

It comes after Horsham councillors failed to reach a decision about its bypass direction at a meeting earlier this month.

What the group says...

Group spokesman and Wonwondah farmer Peter Velthuis said it was time the right decision was made.

He said about 15 to 20 people attended an initial meeting to form this group.

“Council need to take a leadership role and look at more options,” he said.

“We are not getting that at the moment.” Mr Velthuis said council’s indecision showed a lack of good governance.

“A large group of concerned citizens in the Wimmera met last week to develop a constructive way forward,” he said. 

Mr Velthuis said there was feeling in the community that there needed to be more discussion about what was best for the city. 

"The community deserve evidence-based and sound, objective reasons to support different options,” he said.

“We need an option that will deliver the best possible outcome for the city.”

Mr Velthuis said it was time the community stepped up and took action. 

"We cannot afford either complacency, or self-interest to override common sense,” he said. 

“We need a vision that works without core infrastructure to support long-term economic growth.

"We need to ensure our council make an enlightened position based on clear evidence that has the widespread support of the whole municipality, not their own personal points of view.”

Mr Velthuis said the group wasn’t pushing for a particular option, but rather for council to look at what the best option for Horsham and the Wimmera was.

He said the community needed to inform the planning minister, ideally through council, that it wanted an opportunity to get this decision right. 

"It is clear that option D will bring significant impacts and costs on Horsham and the wider Wimmera region, with limited tangible benefits,” he said.

“We need to stop talking about option D – it’s not going to happen.”

"The community and generations ahead can't afford for a flawed choice to be made for entirely the wrong reasons.

 "If our council is not up to the task of delivering the best possible outcome for the region, then leadership in the community will fill that void.” 

Group’s Richard May said any bypass alignment needed to be in the best interest for the city long term.

“Our economic basis is broadacre farming,” he said.

“Raw materials come into the city, are processed and go out again.

“Supplies such as fuel, chemicals and fertiliser come out of Horsham.

“At the moment we have inadequate infrastructure for the long-term future of the city.” 

Mr May said Horsham needed a vision, good leadership and good governance in order to come up with the best outcome.

He said a bypass alignment needed to integrate all highways and arterial roads passing through the city.

“We don’t want trucks going past the new Kalkee Road children’s hub and we need a second bridge somewhere,” he said.

“Too much time and energy has been wasted so far – we can’t afford to waffle around anymore.” Mr May said all alignment options needed to be exhausted before a decision was made.

He said the group wanted to work with council and VicRoads.

“If we have a total partnership it will create a good outcome for everyone,” he said.

Mr Velthuis said the group, which did not yet have a name, started through word of mouth.

“There is mass concern in the community,” he said.

Mr Velthuis said VicRoads’ projection in early 2015 for option D was $157 million. “This was updated in December 2015 to $277 million,” he said. 

What council says...

HORSHAM Rural City Council will again discuss the future of the city’s bypass.

Earlier this month, council failed to come to a decision about what direction it needed to take in determining a bypass route.

Council voted against both exploring other bypass options and not exploring other options.

Horsham mayor Pam Clarke said council would discuss the bypass again on Monday and hopefully reach a decision.

She said the motions council officers would put forward would be the same ones that failed last time – that council either should or should not investigate bypass route alignments other than option D.

Cr Clarke said, in response to a community group’s call for more options, that the bypass debate had been going on for 10 years.

She said VicRoads had done a number of studies and planning reviews to determine the best route for the city. She said she doubted the authority would go back and start all over again.

“We’ve also been told there is no new money available to look at other options,” she said.

What VicRoads says...

VICROADS regional director Ewen Nevett said the authority had been working with stakeholders and the community to develop a future Horsham bypass since 2009.  

"After extensive assessment of 14 options over several years, VicRoads adopted option D as a preferred route option in 2016,” he said.

 In 2015, VicRoads sought an amendment to the Horsham Planning Scheme, proposing to introduce a Public Acquisition Overlay to reserve land for the proposed option D route. 

To consider submissions on this amendment, the planning minister appointed a planning panel. 

This panel ran hearings over eight days in October and November in 2015, with 24 submitters from the 87 submissions received during the exhibition.

In its report, the panel recommended that the amendment be deferred until further work was done by VicRoads and Horsham Rural City Council. 

Council developed a Horsham Integrated Transport Strategy and a Horsham Aerodrome Master plan. 

In the meantime, VicRoads has confirmed that it has adopted option D and the C72 amendment in November last year

What the minister says….

A SPOKESPERSON for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the minister had requested that Horsham Rural City Council form a view on the proposed amendment.

“He is waiting council's position,” the spokesperson said.

“If they are unable to form a view, the minister will establish a process to finalise the route.”