Last week Brisbane City Council released the Initial Consultation outcomes for its Five Green Bridges Program, following a first consultation phase in late 2019.

In a prepared statement, Brisbane City Council told the Westender that it is now working with the community to plan the delivery of the green bridges.

It said that more than 3300 people shared their feedback on the green bridge proposals, with strong support for more cross-river public and active transport options.

“From the consultation we know 72 per cent of respondents agreed green bridges would improve connections with existing walking and cycling networks.”

There was some confusion during the consultation phase about whether the bridges proposed for West End would be for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, or whether they would exclude public transport. This has now been clarified by Council.

In its Consultation report, Council says there was strong support for the two proposed bridges to West End, but as cycle and pedestrian only bridges, and buses on those bridges have now been ruled out.

“We have listened to residents and following strong support for the Toowong to West End and St Lucia to West End bridges we have ruled out buses on these cross-river connections and they will be for pedestrians and cyclists only,” Council said.

Jonathan Sri told the Westender that he is pleased that Council has confirmed clearly in writing that neither of the West End bridges will carry buses, and will be designed for pedestrians, bikes, and scooters.

 “I expect it will be quite a few years before either of the West End bridges is actually built, and I still think we need to see detailed business cases justifying the costs – particularly for the bridge to St Lucia, which may not be the best use of money and resources,” Cr Sri said.

Kurilpa Futures said that it acknowledges that Council has listened to the community and is also pleased to see that it has ruled out buses on the two West End Bridges.

However, Kurilpa Futures spokesperson, Pam Bourke, said it was disappointed to find a lack of data supporting the conclusions and engagement outcomes of the report.  

“We consider the summary report to be readable but believe it should be accompanied by a comprehensive data report made available online,” Ms Bourke said.

Kurilpa Futures said they consider a number of the terms used in the report are vague and need explanation. For instance, they say, they would like Council to define terms such as:  “support, broad support, strong support, positive support, general support, some support, very little support, some local residents, some people, some concerns, and some local residents oppose”.

The group said it also has concerns that the report made no attempt to link the bridges plan to the State Government’s South Brisbane Transport and Mobility Study.

West End Community Association President, Seleneah More, said the Association supports key criteria for any bridge into the peninsular that:

  • is integrated into the existing transport network across 4101, e.g. safe pedestrian and cycling upgrades are needed to accommodate increased volumes users from bridge
  • does not diminish already inadequate green space and vegetation, e.g. removal of trees, mangroves as a last resort, and if so, rehabilitation/adequate off setting occurs
  • is a lightweight structure that minimises the physical and visual impacts of landings
  • has majority resident’s support for active transport ahead of more wasteful vehicle infrastructure
  • where full disclosure of claimed Cost and Benefits Analysis (CBA) which is independently verified – roads should never come at any cost.

Consultation Process and Report

Neither the local Councillor, nor the two Community groups approached for comment, were happy with the consultation process.

Cr Sri said, “As with other council consultations, one of the main problems with this consultation process was that BCC gave residents so little detailed information about the proposed bridges that it was hard for residents to give informed feedback.”

Ms Bourke said that Kurilpa Futures was disappointed.

“The bridge design component of the consultation is seen to be gratuitous and misleading.”  

WECA spokesperson Seleneah More, said the process was inadequate and biased.

“We need full disclosure of the Cost and Benefits Analysis and methodology to have an informed discussion and ultimately decision,” Ms More said.

Cr Sri also considered that the Consultation report lacked essential details.

“Council hasn’t yet published any details about how demographically representative the survey responses are. We know that in general, council consultations tend to get a lot more engagement from older homeowners, while renters and younger people are generally less likely to give feedback. I expect that will have been the case for the green bridge consultation as well.”

After asking about this in the Public and Active Transport Committee, Cr Sri said the Committee Chair, Councillor Ryan Murphy, agreed it would be appropriate to release more details on the feedback received, possibly including anonymised individual survey responses.

Ms More said WECA is also concerned about the lack of detailed data.

“We are concerned regarding the absence of numbers for demographics and dollars. The infrastructure must achieve connectivity to where the population is concentrated and trip generators.”

Toowong to West End Bridge

The consultation report indicates that the Toowong to West End Bridge is the most favoured of the two West End bridges, though there was support for both.

Feedback received by Council for this bridge included:

  • “strong support for the proposed alignment from Forbes Street to Archer Street, with approximately 67% of people supporting this alignment.
  • “broad support from residents and commuters for the bridge and its benefits, with approximately 60% of survey respondents indicating they would use the bridge daily or weekly.”

Some suggested alternative sites were proposed by respondents, and Council reported concerns from nearby residents about impacts on the existing quiet residential character and to properties in Toowong and West End, particularly at Forbes Street, Ferry Road in West End, and in Archer Street in Toowong. Concerns were also raised about potential impacts on parkland and existing river users such as rowers and canoeists, and the visual impacts of the bridge structure on existing river views.

The landing site for the Toowong to West End Bridge, while not settled, is proposed to be in the vicinity of Forbes Street in West End. Cranbrook Place, the site of annual Sorry Day commemorations, sits at the end of Forbes Street in Orleigh Park.

“Grave concerns exist around the lack of design for bridge approaches/landings given a number of unique factors, namely: The Indigenous heritage site at Forbes Street. We do not support the bridge landing right on the heritage site. The impacts on Indigenous heritage must be outlined and there should be face to face engagement with traditional owners, stolen generations and local Aboriginal people,” said Ms Bourke for Kurilpa Futures.

Seleneah More of WECA, shares these concerns:

“Cranbrook House is a significant sorry site and the Council should engage with the local Committee of Indigenous Elders and community to assess the impact on the site in accordance with cultural impact tools.”

Cr Sri said that politically it will be impossible for Council to land the bridge on top of the Cranbrook Place Sorry site, and he thinks it is more likely the bridge will land slightly to the north of it.

 “Landing the Toowong footbridge in the vicinity of Forbes St and Ferry Rd makes sense to me, but I think the bigger challenge for council is finding an appropriate landing spot on the Toowong side. The Greens have been advocating that council should buy back the former ABC site at Toowong for use as a bridge landing and public park,” Cr Sri said

St Lucia to West End Bridge

The St Lucia to West End Bridge is currently proposed to link from Keith and Macquarie Streets in St Lucia (fronted by Rotary International Presidents Park) to Boundary Street in West End.

As local history buff Paul Granville reminds us in a recent blog, a bridge from St Lucia to West End, in some form or another, was proposed nearly a century ago.

“In 1926, the Senate of the University of Queensland decided to accept the offer of land at St Lucia for its new campus. It was decided to build a bridge facilitating access from the city to the new site crossing the river from Boundary Street.”

Mr Granville says the construction of the bridge across the river was scheduled to start in 1941 but the war put a halt to plans. The project was not revived until in 2006 the Eleanor Schonell Bridge linked the University from Dutton Park, rather than West End.

Nevertheless, calls for a bridge landing in West End have continued, and in 2017 the University of Queensland’s Master Plan proposed that a bridge to West End be constructed, this time to the vicinity of Orleigh Park.

In 2019, Council put the St Lucia to Boundary Street proposal back on the table and responses have been mixed.

Feedback to Council on this bridge included:

  • “positive support for a new walking and cycling connection between St Lucia and West End, with approximately 63% of people supporting this alignment
  • “general support from residents and commuters for the bridge and its benefits, with approximately 50% of survey respondents indicating they would use the bridge daily or weekly.’

Council said some people considered that the Eleanor Schonell bridge already provides an adequate connection across the river for people travelling to and from the University, and some people would prefer better ferry services or new car bridges in these suburbs.

Concerns listed by respondents about this bridge included opposition to the proposed landing point at Boundary Street because of the potential for traffic congestion and impacts on the quiet residential area. There were also concerns about the impacts on properties adjacent to the bridge landing location in St Lucia.

The steep gradient of Boundary Street and the difficulties it poses for cyclists and people with mobility issues were also raised.

“It is essential that Boundary Street and adjacent street residents are not disadvantaged and a targeted consultation along the approach route with preliminary designs to discuss is essential.   For instance, the level of gradient on Boundary Street southern approach, and the narrowness of current lanes under the Boundary Street overpass have not been addressed,” said Pam Bourke of Kurilpa Futures. 

Kurilpa Futures also asks how Council intends to accommodate existing two-way vehicular traffic, plus new dedicated on-road cycle lanes, and wider safer pedestrian paths in adjacent streets.  

“The solution may be a circular landing ramp like the GOMA link [Kurilpa] bridge, which required a landing pad of substantial area. Without a concept layout, the community can’t comment adequately on any tangible impacts. These matters should be detailed and included in the next round of community consultation before finalising design and costings and the business case,” Ms Bourke said.

In respect to the Boundary Street Bridge, Cr Sri said that, “I have advised council that I believe a new CityCat terminal for the western side of West End is a higher priority than a footbridge from Boundary St to St Lucia.”

Greenspace

Loss of greenspace was an issue raised by respondents to Council for both of the proposed West End landing sites.

Bridge footings, even for green bridges, can be imposing and can extend some way onto the riverbank at landing sites as evidenced by the Kurilpa Bridge, and this may involve some loss or existing parkland, especially at the proposed Forbes Street site.

Cr Sri has argued that any loss of greenspace should be off set.

However, he said, “to date the Lord Mayor has been quite dismissive of concerns about the bridge landings resulting in loss of green space’.

“So, I think residents need to keep saying loud and clear that for every square metre of parkland that’s lost to the bridges, BCC should create an equivalent amount of new parkland nearby. The project budget for the bridges needs to factor in the commercial value of acquiring land to offset impacts on green space. Council already budgets for offset tree plantings to compensate for lost trees, so it should be easy enough to offset lost land in the same way.”

Pam Bourke of Kurilpa Futures said greenspace in the area is already quantifiably inadequate for the increased population density.

“Any new bridges should be accompanied by commitments to a net gain in green space to respond to a lack of amenity on the land adjacent to the bridge. The new green space should match the needs of residents and visitors and should reflect BCC’s own greenspace/parkland requirements.

“It is clear with the community response to the removal of trees for the William Jolly Bridge upgrade, that council should commit to minimise the impact of the bridge and ancillary works.  The bridges will put additional pressure on Orleigh Park and smaller green spaces such as Paradise Park and Boundary St Park. Additional pressure is also to be expected on Montague Road and, in particular, on the Davies Park Saturday market days, where traffic ‘madness’ already exists,” Ms Bourke said. 

WECA president, Seleneah More said it is standard practice for Governments to compulsorily acquire lands for transport infrastructure, e.g. Lytton Road.

“These Green Bridge proposals should utilise such powers to retain green assets (parks and trees),” Ms More said.

Next steps

Council has said that the next step for the delivery of the green bridges is to undertake technical investigations and studies, including planning preliminary business cases.

“This preliminary business case will further determine design, landing sites and any other potential impacts on existing green space or parking.

“The community will then be further consulted on the findings of the preliminary business cases.”

Kurilpa Futures said there must be detailed consultation with affected residents and opportunities for residents to talk to each other about the bridges, for example, who will benefit, and what are the impacts of light, noise, and visual amenity. 

“The landing points should address issues with consideration for how the approaches intersect with existing networks, distinguishing between on-road dedicated cycle lanes and off-road cycle paths.  This issue including improved pedestrian access will have to be properly addressed in any future design or if not possible, the bridge should be abandoned.

“The pedestrian and cycle network should have a direct link to the Boundary Street retail precinct to keep it alive. In fact, such a major infrastructure project should be designed to encourage pedestrian and cycle traffic towards the heart of this area supporting both retail and service providers,” Ms Bourke said.

Ms More from WECA said that cities around the world are increasing their active transport resources in response to Covid 19.

“Council should follow suite as we have had increased users of active transport routes and green spaces.

“We welcome a robust discussion regarding this challenge for urban neighbourhoods.  A broader discussion to provide much needed green space from existing private lands or development approvals is needed,” Ms More said.

   

Image – overhead view of Kurilpa Bridge – Shutterstock

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