The Summer Edition of the Beaconsfield Banner included an article about the Level Crossing Removal Project in Station St Beaconsfield announcing that in order to build a road bridge over the railway the much-loved Railway House would be acquired and demolished, together with the protected Bunya Bunya tree adjacent to the property.
My last article began with this question; “What will Beaconsfield look like without the Railway House?”
Were you able to imagine that? Were you saddened? Were you angry?
Our ‘call to arms’ was responded to, and so many people were moved, or angered enough, to ask what they could do. There were many ways you could voice your concern and the petition at change.org now has 1290 signatures and there are more on paper.
Our Facebook page ‘Save The Railway House’ has 201 members and it is a good way to see what has been happening. Things were quiet over the Christmas/New Year break but we are back and we are writing, emailing, questioning, and finding support where we can.
The comments and feeling are 100% behind us in our efforts to save the beautiful Railway House, as well as the bunya-bunya pine which is on the significant tree register. It too will be felled to allow for the road bridge.
Here is a small sample of your comments posted online…
“History deserves to be protected”
“We should preserve our history. It is who we are and what we have become. Our past is our foundation to move forward. This is a building worth saving with all its grace and warmth that wraps around you as you enter her domain.”
“You don’t get rid of beautiful history just for a road……”
“It breathes Beaconsfield”
“We need to keep our history alive with these buildings that are so magnificently restored”
“First the historic post office, then the reservoir, now this! We must protect & maintain our historic buildings”
Had Ian Cole not so expertly researched, renovated, painted, created and restored this house back to its original glory we would never have known what it looked like back in the day when horses and carts rumbled up and down the busy streets of Beaconsfield going about their business.
He saw it and appreciated it and had a vision for what it could be again. He succeeded beyond expectations and should be rightly proud of what he, and his wife Yvonne achieved. They passed the baton on to Linda and Brandon who loved it at first sight and now consider themselves custodians of the Railway House to preserve it for future generations.
Little did they guess how they would be challenged to hang onto it, not just for their family and their livelihood, but for all of us who love this grand lady. It is a challenging and stressful time for them as they also run their business from the property. They are living in limbo and dealing with Government bureaucrats for whom this is only a job and who seem to have become so desensitised to the fallout of these projects that they fail to grasp the very real and serious implications these announcements create for the family. They are ongoing, life changing and, in this case, unnecessary, as we have shown.
We maintain that this crossing is neither congested or dangerous. In fact, we have seen a decrease in flow since the opening of the O’Shea Rd extension which allows motorists to cross into Berwick and Clyde Rd. The new exit and entrance on the Pakenham Bypass means there are other options that motorists are obviously making use of to save time. We are unable to get the data from a traffic count carried out just before Christmas and would be interested to see how much it has changed since the initial one. The underpass remains a favoured route to cross under the rail line.
The Station Street crossing is at 110 on ALCAM’s list of Victoria’s crossings by risk. There are much more dangerous and congested crossings desperate to be improved. We do not dispute that LXRP save lives but some are more worthy of removal than others.
So, what have we done?
We have learned a lot and been frustrated by the lack of response from any responsible Government department, especially those whose role it is to respond to queries, concerns and provide information.
We have been encouraged by those who support and offer to help.
We have been discouraged when we hear people say “You’ll never win” or when those who have travelled this road before us tell of their anger and frustration and ultimately their failure to achieve anything. Even with all their advice and contacts I feel we have made very little progress but we continue to advocate and question.
Those who have the power know about us, and know what we are trying to do, in that respect we have been very successful.
This is our journey so far
- We heard the news
- Talked with neighbours and affected persons
- Decided we HAD to do something
- Filled in the survey from LXRP and spread the word
- Went to BPA meeting to hear from LXRP but they didn’t show, later we had a Zoom meeting that was very disappointing
- Organised flyers for a letterbox drop and posters for businesses and all were very happy to display
- Arranged for a board for the front of the Railway House to get word out there, thank you Amanda Charles at Kaye Charles Real Estate for not hesitating when I requested it, it continues to do the job of promoting our cause. I often see passers by stopping to read it.
- Set up an online petition at www.change.org/SaveRailwayHouse which currently has 1290 signatures.
- Set up a FB page to communicate information Save The Railway House and it currently has 201 members.
- Wrote the article for the Summer edition of Beaconsfield Banner.
- Went to a Council Meeting in November and asked the following question(s).
“Does Council have any concerns regarding the LXRP in Station St Beaconsfield given that the plans include acquiring an historically significant building namely Railway House at 20 Beaconsfield Ave in order to construct a bridge over rail.”
Answer from the General Manager Infrastructure and Environment:
“Council recognises the value of Station Masters House and tree to the community as heritage significance. We are aware of the community’s concerns and recognise how crucial it is to make an effort to protect this heritage property. Council is considered a stakeholder in the design process and will seek to influence outcomes although will not be final decision maker this will be the Minister for Planning who will determine the outcome of the project. In the formal engagement for the project Council has provided a submission alongside the community’s submissions emphasising the importance of protection of this heritage site and will continue to advocate for the best outcome for the community.”
- Also asked about environmental concerns of building a road in the Cardinia Creek Wetlands
“There are further concerns by the community about the intention of LXRP to encroach into the Cardinia Creek Wetlands, which therefore has the potential to damage and threaten flora and fauna in the area. The land in question is currently flooded.”
Answer from the General Manager Infrastructure and Environment:
“Council also recognises the environmental sensitivities in the area in terms of flooding, flora and fauna of the area. These projects are required under both Federal and State legislation to consider the environmental impacts of the area. Council has, and will continue to, advocate for best outcomes in a difficult and tightly constrained design area and still deliver a much-needed project for the travelling community of Beaconsfield and surrounding areas whilst minimising the impact on environmental sensitive areas. Council will seek to collaborate throughout the design processes to advocate for the careful consideration to limit the impact to the area.”
- In his speech to Parliament 20/12/22 Brad Battin informed Members about the Railway House, pleaded our cause and invited the Minister to visit. Brad continues to advocate for the Railway House and keeps us updated despite being busy in the electorate, many thanks to him and his team. He always replies to emails and we appreciate this communication.
- Sent an email to LXRP Team and received the following reply from Kevin Devlin after quite some time which, in part, states:
“As you have noted, this design necessitates the acquisition of one residential property. The decision to acquire private homes is never taken lightly and the Project is working closely with the owner throughout the acquisition process. It is acknowledged that this house was also formerly the Station Masters House associated with Beaconsfield Station. All the relevant planning approvals will be sought from the Minister for Planning before the Project proceeds. However, it should be noted that the property has been assessed by experts in the field and does not feature on the State’s Heritage Register, due in part to the fact that the house has been significantly modified since its original construction.
“Nevertheless, the Project team understands the community’s attachment to the property and is working to identify opportunities to retain certain historical elements. The Project team will continue to work with Council and the community on these opportunities as the project is further developed.”
- Had an article published in the Pakenham Gazette on 23/11/22.
- Manned a stall at Akoonah Park Market to spread the word and get more signatures.
- All residents received an update from LXRP with results of their survey to the community to tell us what we value i.e. flora and fauna, village-like feel and pathways and connections. Sadly, no mention of our concerns that we know we raised time and again.
- Sent an email (8/2/23) detailing our concerns and questions to all stakeholders and decision makers including Jacinta Allan (Minister for Construction) Sonya Kilkenny (Planning Minister) LXRP team and leadership et al. Currently no responses except from Brad Battin and one automated reply.
- Currently in discussion with various people who have offered to have meetings and discussions about helping and we are awaiting the results of these.
- Applied for an Interim Protection Order on Railway House. Waiting on a decision.
- News breaks about the Government not being transparent about LXRP statistics and priorities, which could very well apply to us.
- Have had an offer from Joe Toscano from Radio 3CR to dedicate a show to the Railway House.
- The Pakenham Gazette will be running an article again soon.
- Held a Public Meeting from 7.30pm 21/2/23 at the beginning of the Beaconsfield Progress Association February meeting. We invited all Cardinia Councillors and other interested parties to give an update as to what has been happening.
This meeting was attended by 50+ interested people, not just locals, also from Upper Beaconsfield and Berwick. Cr Brett Owen and Cr Graeme Moore attended, with apologies from Cr Kaye Cameron and Cr Stephanie Davies who emphasised their support for the Railway House. Brad Battin was in Parliament but sent his apologies also. I gave an update as to what has been happening. Ian Cole spoke about his journey restoring the Railway House while the current owner, Linda, very bravely spoke to us about the uncertainty her family is facing and the toll this is taking. As she spoke through tears she showed her determination to ensure this house is kept for Beaconsfield because it means as much to the community as it does to them. Cr Brett Owen assured us of the support Council will give us and that they will continue to strongly advocate for the Railway House and will ensure they keep discussing design options with LXRP personnel. There is a closed meeting planned for 20 March and he is happy to put any of your questions to them at this meeting.
Our stance hasn’t changed, we aim to save the Railway House for the owners, for Beaconsfield, and in the interests of common sense.
The hardest part has been getting any responses from the powers that be. Throughout this all we have been respectful, patient, but determined. We have raised more than valid points, done research, explored every possibility that we know of and will continue to pursue every avenue we can.
Foremost we do not want to be aggressive, disrespectful or confrontational, but to be honest I can understand how it comes to that when you keep hitting brick walls.
Last time I looked we lived in a democracy where we are all equal, where it is actually our tax that pays for this, so in theory, we should have the right to question. I admit to being very discouraged as time goes by. I see machines arriving and I break out in a cold sweat when I see workers in high vis vests and wonder if this is the day of no return. We feel the hopes of all of you behind us, what a responsibility!
Where to from here??
We will submit questions to Brett Owen to put to LXRP at their meeting on 20/2/23 and trust that the Council will be proactive in ensuring all options are considered.
We will keep trying to find out information for you.
We will continue to reach out on social media for people who can assist us and will use it to let you all know of any and all developments.
We will explore the idea of the radio show to get word out there.
We will stay positive, determined, and persist in our endeavours to save the Railway House.
We thank you for your support and encouraging comments every day.
In closing I will finish with a quote from Brad Battin’s speech to Parliament late last year.
“I think it is paramount that we protect this house as a priority for the Beaconsfield community”
by Fran Healy