Road plan rides roughshod

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The future of one of Australia’s oldest horse riding schools remains “uncertain” with road development plans threatening its tranquil surroundings.

A VicRoads concept plan of the proposed extension of Thompsons Road east of Berwick-Cranbourne Road shows that the 100-acre Oakwood Riding School would lose pockets of land at the southern corners of its property.

The road is planned to be built close to the school’s southern property line and outdoor riding arena.

La Trobe MP Jason Wood said he planned to ask VicRoads to take the Oakwood Riding School’s concerns into account.

“I understand that under the City of Casey masterplan, there are certain sections of the road that have been decided and others that haven’t, so this is the time to act,” Mr Wood said.

“Future-proofing La Trobe is incredibly important for our next generations so I am fighting to fund strategic planning for the area.

“We need to consult with local residents and we need to consult with local organisations like Oakwood Riding School to make sure that the extension of Thompsons Road is done in a way that benefits our whole community.”

Oakwood Riding School committee vice president Jill Shannon said that the school has moved site “several” times, including three moves due to developments.

Established in 1958, the not-for-profit riding school has been located at its current The Meadows Clyde North site for the past decade.

The property has a large indoor arena and stabling complex, two outdoor arenas, shedding, 35 paddocks and a permanent cross country course, and is home to about 65 horses and 15 steers.

The school also offers horse agistment services for its members who are unable to care for their horses at their homes.

Five years ago, the committee fought to protect initial plans that would have seen the property split in half. Members also appealed for main road access which is necessary for transporting horses.

But their suggestions of alternative routes further south of their property that would minimise the impact on the riding school were rejected.

“This is the largest site the riding school has ever had and it was bought with the intention of being a permanent site,” Ms Shannon said.

“We’ve been hoping to expand our facilities but we’re caught in limbo because the school’s future is uncertain. People buy land in good faith. If we’d known, we wouldn’t have bought the property.

“The plans show that we will be losing land at the front of the property near Smiths Lane which at present is private paddocks full of agisted horses.

“The road extension will also pass very close to our outdoor arena and follows our laneway down to the back paddock where we will also lose land. I think we’ll lose about 10 to 15 acres.

“Our question to VicRoads and the MPA has always been ‘why can’t the road go further south?’”

Committee members said they were recently told by a representative of the Melbourne Planning Authority (MPA) not to expect any development for the next 10 to 15 years but a Cardinia Shire Council spokesperson has estimated the project would be completed within the next three to five years.

“I feel like we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security,” committee member Virginia Lee said.

“The riding school is a little oasis and for many of our members it’s an escape from the urban lifestyle.

“At the moment, it’s a rural property. We’re going to lose that. We’ll be surrounded by roads and houses.”

City of Casey transport manager Paul Hamilton said Thompsons Road had been identified as a future “primary east-west arterial route”.

The Thompsons Road project would provide about 100,000 jobs for the growing region, he said.

“VicRoads undertook detailed investigations into the preferred alignments for Thompsons Road’s future crossing of Cardinia Creek, taking into account potential impacts on land at both sides of the Cardinia Creek, including the Oakwood Riding School, and also constraints associated with the creek interface,” Mr Hamilton said.

“At the time, Oakwood Riding School was provided information on the proposed alignments and the VicRoads investigating team took the school’s concerns into consideration.

“Council is aware that VicRoads modified the alignment to reduce the direct impacts of the proposed alignment on the Oakwood Riding School although it is still expected that some parts of the property will be required.”

MPA chief Peter Seamer said conceptual planning for the future extension of Thompsons Road had been underway for “some time”.

“The MPA has been consulting with property owners through every stage of developing its Precinct Structure Plans for areas that Thompsons Road will cover. We ensure planning is undertaken in the public interest,” Mr Seamer said.

“The section of Thompsons Road east of Clyde Road is currently a local road under the control of the City of Casey and planning is underway for this section.

“After assessing impacts on property, biodiversity, land form, flooding, proximity to transmission lines and various other technical considerations, VicRoads determined that the route detailed in the McPherson Precinct Structure Plan was the best option.”

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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