Berry bypass debate driving residents apart

The proposed Berry bypass might not divide the town but it seems to be dividing residents.

There is even division on whether the bypass does in fact divide the town.

Last year, after much community consultation, Roads and Maritime Services selected its preferred option, a route that runs along the northern edge of the town and through its north-western corner.

There was also a southern option - through prime dairy land and a flood plain - that the RMS had costed but found to be more than $100 million more expensive than the northern route.

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One group - Better Options for Berry (BOB) - is opposed to the selected northern route.

Convener Will Armitage said BOB, a subcommittee of the Berry Alliance, was set up after a series of public forums with a "mandate" to reduce the environmental and social impacts of the Princes Highway upgrade on the town of Berry.

Mr Armitage said the group was not in favour of one route over the other but had made a 55-page submission to the Department of Planning detailing its concerns with the current design and "outlining things that need to be resolved before the design is finalised".

At present the Princes Highway turns into Queen Street, which runs through the centre of town and carries with it regular heavy traffic. While that street could be said to divide the town, Mr Armitage instead felt that was what the northern bypass would do.

"The bypass is not a bypass, it's a throughpass, it divides Berry in two," he said.

"The people from the west side of town will have real difficulties getting to the social infrastructure on the east side of town because there's only one way across the [bypass] and you've got to go through two major roundabouts.

"Kids going to school have got to walk through two major roundabouts."

He also believed the changes would complicate what was an easy route into town from the western fringes of Berry.

"There is no major road going through town now. The Princes Highway is a two-lane road, it's fairly easy to cross," he said.

"People coming from the west side of town only have to go to the Kangaroo Valley interchange, turn left - it's a very simple turn - and go into town."

Mr Armitage rejected the suggestion that members of BOB were opposed to the northern route because they were directly affected by it. He said there were a lot of members, including himself, who weren't affected by the route.

"I live on the outskirts of Berry, I'm not impacted by either of the options," he said.

"I've just got real concerns for the impact of the current preferred design on the town of Berry and the social and environmental impacts that will have."

Other residents say BOB's opposition is delaying a project that has already taken several years.

"I suspect that most people in Berry just want it done and most people in Berry thought that a route was selected and were happy there would finally be some action," Russell Baldwin said.

A resident of the south side of Berry, Mr Baldwin is part of the group Fair Process Alliance, formed to combat Berry Southern Option Supporters (SOS), who wanted to send the bypass south.

He said BOB now included several SOS supporters and believed they were creating "angst and division" within the community through their campaign against the northern option.

Mr Armitage called any claims his group was divisive "totally fallacious and mischievous" and said no-one had ever said to him they were dividing the community.

While Mr Baldwin claimed there was division in the community it hadn't reached the stage of people deliberately trying to avoid each other in the street.

"No, I don't think it is that bad but people are just getting a bit fed up," he said.

Mr Baldwin said he particularly objected to the idea that the northern route would split the town in half.

"They keep coming up with this idea that the proposed northern route will divide the town," he said.

"The only thing it divides is the community, not the town. It swings around and goes underneath what is currently Kangaroo Valley Road - it's not dividing anything.

"The dividing-the-town thing is just a total furphy but it sounds good - makes good headlines."

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