Last week, the Warburton Mountain Bike Trail project was greenlit by the Minister for Planning, Lizzie Blandthorn.
The initiative was put forward by the Yarra Ranges Shire to create a world-class mountain bike destination centred around Warburton in the Dandenong Ranges, a township approximately 70km east of Melbourne. The trail will cater to bikers of all skill levels, including those with young families, and will be eligible for the coveted International Mountain Bike Association Gold Ride Centre status.
Following on from similar successes in Tasmania, including the Blue Derby and St Helens Mountain Bike Trails, the Warburton project will introduce over 140 kilometres of trails predominantly through the Yarra State Forest and some trails through the Yarra Ranges National Park. There are three primary zones ‒ Mount Donna Buang, Mount Little Joe and Mount Tugwell ‒ and will also intersect with the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail and the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail.
With 2,707 submissions providing feedback on the proposal, 87% of respondents showed support for the economic and social opportunities provided by the recreational trails.
Some stakeholders expressed concern over issues ranging from ecological impacts, impact on water quality to traffic congestion, changes to the township’s character and negative impacts on housing affordability. In supporting the project proposal, the Panel recommended four trails located in the National Park be removed given the potential environmental impacts on species located in these areas and the risk of spreading biological contaminants.
With more than 140 kilometres of trails linking Lilydale, Yarra Glen, Healesville and the Lilydale Warburton Rail Trail, this new bike network will offer residents and visitors additional avenues for health, sightseeing and connectivity benefits.
Ratio Joins the Team
Ratio’s Planning and Transport teams gave evidence for Town planning, Social and Economic Impact and Transport.
The expert involvement in the town planning and social impact evidence required a peer review of all the planning and S&E (social and economic) work undertaken. This peer review enabled a tightening of the controls and mapping to better reflect the intended outcomes of the project and to ensure proper governance around future approvals associated with the project
Transport expertise required for the project provided the Committee with an evidence-based assessment of the travel behaviour of visiting riders; utilising data collected from rider surveys and activity profiles collected from other mountain bike destinations across Australia. Evidence was also provided in relation to the shuttle bus service, emergency access considerations and car parking provision at the trail heads and township. The Committee concluded that with the incorporation of various mitigation measures, there were no traffic and transport impacts that precluded the Project being approved.
Ratio’s key experts brought fresh eyes to a project that has been years in the making, allowing them to resolve a number of important issues, including the visual impact of a noise attenuation wall along the eastern edge of the golf course. Our work ensured that an Incorporated Document allowed for due review of the approval process by the Minister for Planning, given that Council is the proponent in this matter, and that consideration of visual impact on the construction of two bridges and noise attenuation wall are considered further down the approval pipeline.
Our Planning experts also fully explored the challenging matrix of social and economic impacts of the proposal in a township where a small but vocal number of stakeholders raised concerns about the impact of the proposal. They assisted the Special Advisory Committee (SAC) to better understand the implications of these complex issues and the challenges given that some of these issues, such as rising housing prices and traffic congestion, were already in effect.
Ratio is proud to play a role in the approval of this significant project and looks forward to the installation of the Warburton Mountain Bike Trail in 2023.