Last night Yarra City Council removed a gate that had been illegally installed by Alphington Grammar School and restored pedestrian access to public land.
The school was advised 8 months ago of their legal obligations to remove the gate and restore public pedestrian access to a section of Darebin Creek.
This followed a unanimous decision by Council last October for public access to be restored.
Under the Local Government Act 1989 (LGA89), Council has powers to manage roads and traffic, and to remove any obstructions that prevent the free use of a road.
The Council decision followed extensive community engagement last year, where locals overwhelmingly supported the removal of the gate so pedestrians could once again access the area.
340 people provided feedback in support of restoring public access and only 14 people opposed the removal of the gate. Alphington Grammar School was involved in the consultation process and made submissions to Council.
The gate was installed by the school illegally and without permission.
Despite repeated attempts by Council to work with the school to resolve this matter, the school made the decision not to cooperate.
Council has been in regular conversations with the school since last October, has issued a number of letters and also met with the school principal last December in an attempt to resolve the matter.
Alphington Grammar School was given until Tuesday 24 May 2022 at 5 pm to remove the gate and restore public access.
Council finds arguments by the school around child safety concerns perplexing given the gate is already open before school starts until approximately 9pm every school day.
To Councils knowledge, the school has not taken any meaningful steps to comply or manage the risks they are claiming will result from reopening the path to this public land.
With the removal of the gate, the community is now able to access public land on weekends and on public holidays as is their legal right.
Many schools across Melbourne have campuses that cross public land and they have come up with solutions to address this that do not involve blocking access to public land.
Council is incredibly disappointed Alphington Grammar School did not do the right thing and comply with their legal requirement to remove the gate, which was effectively privatising pubic land.