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Four Melbourne councils are set to unite for a Supreme Court challenge to the North East Link toll road, potentially throwing another of the Andrews government’s high-profile transport projects into turmoil.
Banyule, Boroondara, Whitehorse and Manningham councils will decide this week on whether to act on legal advice over a potential challenge against Planning Minister Richard Wynne.
In December, Mr Wynne gave the $15.8 billion road – the most expensive transport project in Victorian history – his tick of approval, dismissing key findings of an independent panel he appointed to assess the project's environmental impact.
Councils opposed elements of the North East Link because it will cause impacts on 53 hectares of open space, the loss of nearly 800 jobs and a "protracted construction period" that will be so invasive that many homes will be acquired.CREDIT:NORTH EAST LINK AUTHORITY
The legal challenge by the four councils could delay the project for many months. Early works on the road are under way, while major construction is due to start next year. The road set to open to traffic in 2027.
During nine weeks of hearings on the environmental impact of the road last year, all four councils opposed different aspects of the North East Link, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and barristers to argue against it.
Ultimately, the councils argued the Environment Effects Statement process for the road had been so badly botched it needed to be redone.
A spokeswoman for the state government said what councils did was a matter for them.
"The process regarding this road has been open and transparent from the start,” she said. “We took this project to an election and it was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Victorian people."
Experienced planning barrister Adrian Finanzio, SC – who acted for three of the councils at the hearings – is set to act for the councils again. The councils would ultimately pay lawyers an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 between them to fund the legal challenge.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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