With the first wave of construction expected to begin this month, the Victoria Gardens at Bell Gardens in Melbourne has been left in the lurch as it tries to navigate the unprecedented growth of a major national and international park.
The garden’s owners, the Victorian Gardens Company, have spent years trying to secure a new site in Victoria, but have had difficulty finding suitable land.
The company has been told the area is too close to a busy highway, which means the garden could be forced to close at any time.
“We’ve been told by Victoria Council that the area on which the garden is located is extremely close to Victoria’s highways,” said the gardens company’s CEO Peter Wilson.
“And with the highway so close, the area could close in any event.”
Victoria Council’s environmental management officer, David Lonergan, said the area had been a popular tourist spot in the past and that the garden’s site would be suitable for a new development.
But he warned the company needed to work hard to secure more land.
“If they want to put their plans in place to make sure they have the appropriate land, they will need to make it happen,” he said.
We can’t let that happen.” “
The only thing that will happen is that there will be a lot of confusion, a lot more noise.
We can’t let that happen.”
Mr Wilson said he had been in touch with the Victorian Council about the situation and hoped to hear back from them soon.
“The Victorian Gardens has been in trouble with this [growing] since we bought it in the 1970s and it’s been going downhill for about 15 years,” he told ABC News 24.
“So we’ve been trying to get a solution but there’s no end in sight.”
Mr Lonergans comments came after the council warned the garden had not been adequately assessed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and had not received the proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
Mr Wilson, who is a long-time supporter of the garden, said he was encouraged that the council was now looking at the garden more closely.
“[It’s] a good sign that Victoria Council is taking the issue seriously, that it is getting involved and that they are taking a more objective approach to it,” he added.
Mr Wilson said the Victorian Garden Company, which owns the gardens, was still seeking more land, and said he hoped that Victoria’s environmental commissioner, Chris Hill, would be able to assist them.
The Victoria Gardens Company is also being asked to make more money to help cover costs related to the new project, Mr Wilson added.
“They’ve got to get on board with the plan and it needs to happen, otherwise it will be really difficult to get any land to go ahead,” he warned.
Victoria’s Victorian Environmental Protection Agency said it had received more than 200 complaints about the Garden from gardeners and people visiting the garden in recent months.
A Victorian Environmental Impact Statement has been put together for the project and is due to be completed in February.
In the meantime, Mr Lutergan said the company was still considering its options.
“This is an enormous undertaking for us, with the nature of the landscape, it’s going to take us a long time to get it right,” he explained.
“What we’re going to be doing is working with the National Park Service to get that environmental impact statement, which is going to help us with a number of things.”
Victoria Gardens Company’s managing director Peter Wilson has been vocal in his support of the Victorian garden, but it is still facing criticism from other gardeners about the lack of attention to detail put into the site plan and plans for the site.
Several gardeners have expressed concern that the company has not included plans for parking, and that many of the planned entrances and exits have been blocked off by road signs and tree lines.
Victorian Gardens Company managing director Mr Wilson has previously been vocal about his support for the Garden and its planned expansion, and last year released a report that called for the new gardens to be opened as soon as possible.
He said he would continue to advocate for the Victorian gardens, despite the criticism, but added that there were a number factors that needed to be considered.
“(We) have to get out of the business of trying to make the Victoria Garden what it’s not and get on with the business that we’ve got going in Victoria,” he concluded.