Huge car parks plan for Skylift

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Gondola days: Three parking areas will serve patrons of Arthurs Seat Skylift. The company is banking on about 160,000 people a year using the $18 million ride.

Gondola days: Three parking areas will serve patrons of Arthurs Seat Skylift. The company is banking on about 160,000 people a year using the $18 million ride.

LARGE tracts of Arthurs Seat State Park near the summit will be taken over for car parking to service the proposed Skylift gondola ride, a meeting organised by Save Our Seat was told last week.

More car parking will also be developed near the gondola’s bottom station, beside the historic Dromana cemetery, the 70 attendees were told.

There were gasps from the audience when pictures were shown of the total car park area, which will accommodate well over 600 vehicles.

An audience member and local resident, Gabrielle Johnstone, protested that the summit’s number two car park would cover an area she and her Seawinds volunteer group had been working hard to regenerate. It contained native orchids, she said.

A plan of the summit parking showed three overflow areas – a main overflow off Purves Rd plus two bigger and more distant areas. It was suggested mini-buses might be needed to pick up and deliver patrons who parked at the sites and that lighting would be needed to help late-departing patrons to find their vehicles.

It was also pointed out that females employed at the summit gondola station would need to be accompanied to their vehicles, especially at the end of night shifts.

Total car parking for the bottom gondola station and at the summit is proposed to be 627, of which four will be disabled parking, plus four bus spaces, according to a Parks Victoria document.

In an important development last Friday, Cr Hugh Fraser moved to ensure that councillors, not shire officers, decide on conditions imposed on Skylift by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. These include the emergency management plan and the bushfire emergency plan.

VCAT imposed 78 conditions on the Skylift proposal, many of them highly detailed. They cover everything from shire approval of the plans, landscaping, food and beverage sales, and neighbourhood amenity, to closing the gondola lift in emergencies and gondola evacuation procedures.

VicRoads must be satisfied the project meets its conditions, included in the VCAT decision. They include providing a detailed traffic volume forecast and “an analysis of … pedestrian and patron safety” including roadway “vertical geometry” at the summit and calculation of sight distances.

No work can start “in, on, under or over the road reserve” without all necessary approvals, condition 77 mandates.

The threat of bushfire was also discussed, with deep concern expressed about the number of people who might be at the summit, sheltering in the 850-square metre building and unable to leave because of fire.

Three roads lead away from the summit. All would be risky in a bushfire.

The draft Emergency Management Plan risk rating for the summit is “high” but “unlikely”, with “major” consequences for both people and infrastructure, according to the plan’s table 6.1.

The primary response to a bushfire threat is to call 000, the table states.

The meeting was told that the top station is to be built to a far lower Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) than is required for new houses built in the area. A recent house was required to meet the BAL 40 standard, at considerable extra cost, while the Skylift summit building is required to conform to BAL 12.5, the second-lowest level.

At the VCAT hearing, Member Geoff Rundell questioned Parks Victoria witness Alan Farquhar about the benefits Skylift would provide for Arthurs Seat State Park. Part of Mr Farquhar’s response was that Parks Victoria had “allowed the proponent to propose a new footprint” for the area to be leased.

Discussions had included offering a multi-attraction ticket for Skylift and the proposed Point Nepean quarantine station development, which is in doubt after the election of the Labor state government last November.

The object was to encourage people to “linger” at Arthurs Seat, Mr Farquhar said, and then move from the gondola to Point Nepean.

Mr Rundell asked if it was feasible to have a cafe at the summit without a gondola. Mr Farquhar said it was, but it would be better with the gondola ride. Parks Victoria’s funding was dependent on the number of visitors to the parks it controlled, including that at Arthurs Seat.

- Save Our Seat has launched a new petition that can be signed online at saveourseat.org. The website also provides a downloadable letter that can be sent to Environment Minister Lisa Neville.

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