AN ongoing battle about residential roads between the Bass Coast Shire Council (BCSC) and residents of the Phillip Island town of Sunset Strip has been reignited by the council returning the surfaced roads to gravel.
Late last year, council workers removed the primer seal surface, which had been put on the roads of Sunset Strip as part of a trial dust suppression program which council has since abandoned.
The group, who call themselves the ‘Sunset Strip dust busters’ have 200 individually signed letters they plan to present to council, and one of the group’s leaders, Colleen McGrath, has written to the Victorian Minister for Health to request her intervention.
The BCSC website says the trial dust suppression program ran between 2005 and 2007, and was ended because “over the long term [the trialled roads] are costly to maintain and are only a short-term solution to manage dust”.
Residents say the high cost of maintaining the primer seal surfaced roads was the justification given by the council in the notice of works.
“They haven’t ended their dust suppression program, what they have done is start a dust program… no council has the right to do this,” one property owner said.
The group say they do not want or need their roads to be fully upgraded.
They liked the look of the primer seal surface and they don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for anything more than it.
“Council’s current policy is to bring all unsealed roads in urban areas up to modern standards, this is set out in the Urban Road and Drainage Improvement Policy,” said BCSC General Manager Place Making, James Stirton.
“Therefore, council does not support further temporary measures.”
The roads were resurfaced with road aggregate, or gravel, which residents say has caused their homes and streets to be inundated by “billowing clouds of dust” raised by cars driving through.
The council might have removed the seal, residents say, to encourage them to agree to a Special Charge Scheme, which would see Sunset Strip ratepayers cop most of the cost of sealing the road.
The scheme would see ratepayers cough up tens of thousands of dollars for the works.
However, the council says 70 per cent of ratepayers would have to agree to the scheme to get it re-prioritised.
“This is an equitable way of controlling the costs of infrastructure of locally accessed roads,” Mr Stirton said.
“Consideration of local areas for a Special Charge Scheme by council is identified under the Urban Upgrade Priority Program. Sunset Strip is currently fourth on this list.”
Council provided a list of eight other cases of successful special charge schemes, and say there is another in process.
One elderly resident said she has noticed the dust impacting her health.
Another resident said he and his children have been forced to stop riding their bikes around their local street, as he is concerned by the dusk making them cough.
The council says they have previously confirmed with the EPA that the road network is satisfactory for health concerns.
“The material used in Sunset Strip is sourced from the same quarry as all material used for unsealed roads in Bass Coast Shire,” Mr Stirton said.
Bermagui Crescent is the main thoroughfare of Sunset Strip and locals say it is often used as a shortcut between Phillip Island Road and Back Beach Road.
They say that trucks and tourist buses often miss the turn off onto Back Beach Road, and Bermagui Crescent is the quickest way to get through, but these large vehicles raise massive amounts of dust on the local roads.
One resident has gone as far as to rake up a homemade speed hump on the road to stop drivers speeding through the area and causing further dust.
The unsealed surface was further tested on Thursday, January 24, by the first rain since it had been installed, with residents dismayed at how poorly it held up.
“It’s already full of corrugations, and it has been in for less than six months, and now this rain has turned them into worse pot holes than we had with the primer seal.”
Island locals stripped of their road surface