Trevor Phillips. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

TWO prominent Bendigo businessmen have called for a dramatic rethink of the region’s planning and development policies, as the city continues to boom towards becoming a sprawling community of more than 200,000 by 2050.

Former Bendigo Bank and Coliban Water director Don Erskine and strategic transport planner Trevor Phillips have proposed a radical series of employment zones on the fringes of Bendigo, serviced by a network of new and upgraded roads as part of a proposal that the pair admit will create controversy and emotions, but more importantly, should also spark debate about Bendigo’s future growth.

The pair want planners to consider a polycentric model where independent self-contained suburbs similar to Canberra could be developed at Maiden Gully, Strathfieldsaye and Marong, with further expansion north of Huntly to be discouraged because of perceived concerns about flooding and inadequate transport infrastructure.

They also believe a network of employment areas could eventually be established at Ravenswood, Huntly, Eaglehawk/Myers Flat, the Calder Alternate/Bendigo Marybourough Road to include the existing poultry area, in Strathfieldsaye and at Axedale.

Expansion into Ravenswood is seen as desirable, provided land capability studies identify the land as being suitable for urban uses.

Equally, Lockwood and Lockwood South could be considered for urban growth, and under this strategy, smaller settlements of up to 10,000 people could be considered for Axedale, Goornong and Elmore.

Mr Phillips said present day planning policy for urban growth is based on a centralist model that promotes the CBD and promotes incremental growth around the existing urban zones.

“This could easily lead to all the bad features associated with urban congestion as seen in larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, and also fails to recognize the dramatic changes introduced to the retail sector, for example, with the digital age.

“I believe Bendigo’s future is in preserving as much of old Bendigo as you can and then providing a new Bendigo around that, which provides a lot more features you cannot superimpose on the old Bendigo.”

At June 30, 2018, Greater Bendigo’s population was approximately 116,000, and as the city marches towards a population of 200,000 sometime within the next 30 or so years, consideration needs to be given for 35,000 more homes and up to 210,000 additional vehicle movements a day.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows there are about 1.87 vehicles per household, meaning Bendigo must consider the impact and need for an extra 65,450 vehicles on local roads.

Mr Phillips said Bendigo’s road system was established in the days of the horse and buggy, and 170 years later, the demands for travel do not follow the earlier routes.

“New routes and connections will be needed to accommodate future demands and uses.

“The concept proposes a new arterial road standard bypass from the Calder Highway at Big Hill around the south-east of the city to service the proposed new eastern suburbs, and to provide an alternative to the Midland Highway by upgrading the Goornong-Axedale Road with a planned bypass of Axedale to allow the development of a town centre unimpeded by through traffic.’’

He said the present linear north-south expansion of Bendigo is also problematic, as the historic layout of the city was conceived before the invention of the motor vehicle, and places undue emphasis on one arterial route which will be to the detriment of Bendigo.

Mr Phillips does not discount changes in technology, transportation methods and work practices in the future, but says the sheer weight of these numbers cannot be ignored.

He admits the proposal presents many challenges for the community, and that the environment would be high on the list of concerns.

Mr Phillips has called for consideration to be given to the provision of a 200-300 metre-wide firebreak which could also accommodate a major solar farm and a bypass road around the northern boundary of Eaglehawk, to protect a vulnerable part of the city and maximise the use of the firebreak area.

The bold plan employs a total access concept whose main transport features also includes a realignment of the Calder Highway from west of Marong to Maiden Gully so that a new route can avoid the embryonic town centre and provide additional areas for urban expansion. The Calder Alternate Highway would also be deviated west of Marong.

The progressive upgrade of the Axedale-Goornong Road to highway standard would allow traffic travelling south to bypass the Midland Highway and also cater for the progressive urban growth from Huntly to Goornong.

– Peter Kennedy