Plea to save historic bridge

Gisborne and Mt Macedon Districts Historical Society president Frank Porter at the Bunjil Creek Bridge. (Gisborne Gazette)

By Oliver Lees

Gisborne residents have thrown their support behind the protection of a historic bluestone bridge and several mature trees after it became known Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) intends to remove them to construct a roundabout in the township.

A report presented to Macedon Ranges council earlier this month provided an update on RRV’s plans for the project near the Bunjil Creek Bridge on Hamilton Street.

The report stated that the RRV “will not enable the retention of the bluestone bridge and channel”, due to flood risk issues.

Frustrated by this news, Gisborne resident Phillipa Butler started a petition to save the historical landmarks, which amassed more than 150 signatures in less than 48 hours.

“I was very angry… it’s very unfair to the community,” Ms Butler said.

“That whole precinct is a traditional gateway to Gisborne. It’s part of the whole look and feel of Gisborne, it’s a beautiful spot and the heritage is very important to the people of Gisborne.“

Plans to develop a roundabout were first announced in November, 2018, which was followed by a period of consultation in late 2019.

RRV received a number of submissions through this process, in which the community made clear its wish to maintain the “historic nature of this important gateway entry into Gisborne township”.

Macedon Ranges council subsequently directed a heritage assessment be carried out on the bridge and nearby mature English Elms, which found the bridge was constructed in 1874 and estimated the trees to be dated to around 1855.

Despite the assessment finding both to be of historical significance, on June 7, the planning minister denied a request for council to introduce heritage overlay controls, given that council had reached an agreement with the RRV to retain the bridge and trees.

Speaking at a council meeting on August 25, Macedon Ranges council mayor Jennifer Anderson said it was important that council continued to advocate for protection of the shire’s historic landmarks.

“Our heritage is incredibly important, and our environment is incredibly important,” Cr Anderson said.

“So we need to find engineering solutions… to make this intersection safe without over engineering it.”

Victorian Department of Transport Loddon Mallee region director Melanie Hotton said the intersection works are to improve safety in the “rapidly growing community”.

“While we have made every effort to limit the impact to the existing bridge, the design considers updated information on potential flooding, including ensuring that nearby properties will not receive an inundation of water during heavy rain,” she said.

“In addition, we will re-use any bluestone removed from the bridge on the project.’’

Macedon Ranges council staff will meet with Melbourne Water to understand the flood risks that RRV has mentioned in relation to this project.