By Justin Flynn
The City of Greater Geelong has deferred a decision on whether Ocean Grove residents will need to help pay for a series of footpaths around the town.
At its monthly meeting, deputy mayor Trent Sullivan moved to defer the decision on the 25.2km Principal Pedestrian Network (PPN) in which residents will fork out for half of the $3.65 million with council paying for the other half.
Rateable properties in the town would help pay for the network at $477 per property.
Feedback from locals has been that they want council to fully fund the project, particularly when their rates have increased.
Councillor Sullivan responded to angry locals on social media where he said “the community passion on this project is loud and clear”.
“I believe that council should be funding this project fully,” he said.
“The city has been collecting rates from Ocean Grove residents for decades and with property prices the way they are residents are certainly paying above the average.
“This is a council responsibility and council needs to find a way of funding it fully, that’s what rates are for. The council necessities, roads, rates, rubbish.
“Some of my colleagues would rather charge 6245 residents a near extra $500, whether a path goes past their property or not, to cover council’s shortcomings.
“I am fighting for these paths to be implemented, we need to have safe transport for all community members.
“But I reject council treating residents as endless cash cows that they can charge whenever they like.
“I will be fighting for this to change so that the next time this report comes to council it will pass, the project can be implemented and council will be responsible for funding it out of rates as they should.”
However, Ocean Grove Community Association said the project “continues to drag on”.
OGCA chairperson Phil Edwards referred back to the Ocean Grove Structure Plan 2015, which states “the historical subdivision of the town lacks appropriate footpath and cycle path provision, particularly in areas south of Thacker Street and older parts of Collendina. Issues also relate to key road intersections where no provision has been made to accommodate pedestrian movements to key destinations such as the Shell Road precinct and the town centre. This is an ongoing concern for the community. The preparation of a PPN and the support of the G21 Principal Bicycle Network (PBN) (including priority projects for the town) will ensure that priority work is undertaken to deliver a network of footpaths and cycle paths and that priority is given to key routes.”
“The broader community has said through numerous community engagements over the years they want a footpath network and the 2015 Structure Plan even said ‘improve walkability and connectivity for the community particularly the young, elderly, families with prams and those less mobile and increase the provision of footpaths throughout existing and new residential estates’,” Mr Edwards said.
“We have told our ward councillors previously we would like to see council consider treating the PPN as a legacy project and covering the full project cost of the PPN reflecting footpaths are now part of a developer’s cost in new estates whereas this was not the case in old Ocean Grove.
“We want council to make their decision and get on with the project and deliver it quicker than the five years they are planning.”