Laneways are not all green

By Sue Saunders, Residents 3000

There are some beautiful laneways in the city of Melbourne.  

There are cosy corners to stop for coffee or wander amongst boutique shops whilst admiring the leafy trees and shrubs all around.  Many of the famous lanes have interesting old buildings that add character and a warm connection to the past.  But it is not all roses.

Every Saturday morning when I walk down Little Collins St on the way to the market, I come across an absolute eyesore called Balcombe Lane.  Over the years I have used the practical app called “Snap, Send, Solve,” to send phone messages and photos to the City of Melbourne about many things. But in the waste management area, the “Solve” part does not seem to happen.

To their credit the city gave me a prompt reply as follows:

“It has been forwarded to me to investigate the bins being in the laneway and the milk crates.

The bins are currently permitted in the laneway, the milk crates are regularly collected by the council and removed also.

We are aware of issues in this laneway and are constantly patrolling it as well as works being undertaken to improve this laneway from the council. We will continue to monitor this laneway closely.”

It seems to me that there is a difference between “monitoring” and “doing”.  What can be done about this and other challenged laneways?  The bins are large and ugly with debris overflowing.  The crates are a trip hazard when they are strewn about.  This laneway could be a real credit to the beautiful shops, cafes and retail outlets on this well-known street that attracts many tourists and residents alike.

On Thursday April 5, Residents 3000 invited lord mayoral candidates to express their vision and aspirations for the Melbourne CBD – making our city an even better place to live.  Over 90 residents attended showing great interest in the city and its management. The key topics for discussion were:

Building design and density;

Homelessness; and

Waste management

All the candidates showed that they were knowledgeable in these areas and gave us insight into how each would seek to improve the status quo.  It was recognised that waste management is a pressure point for the city given the rapid increase in population that is not expected to slow.

It was suggested that waste collection needed to be re-organised into precincts with one contractor per precinct.  But competition laws are preventing a more logical approach so that there are many contractors servicing the same area causing unnecessary congestion in city streets.

When it comes to the sad laneways like Balcombe, perhaps rather than complain about the problem we should be saying “something can be done!”  It could be a good project for high school or university students may be able to come up with some ideas.

Perhaps a competition judged by urban planners and waste management experts?  It would be great if the winning idea was actually implemented.  And residents could be involved!

Here are some preliminary ideas.

Put all the bins on the one side of the road to unblock the road way;

Put an attractive wooden gate at the entrance to the laneway accessible only by authorised vehicles;

Impose fines for leaving litter around or being caught applying graffiti;

Install one or two large compactors with a waste lodgement shoot so that all rubbish is collected in one place;

Maybe compactor collection could simply involve a bin swap-over with the truck having a built-in crane similar to the dump bins used by construction companies;

Paint or apply quality art work to the walls to lighten the dark facade;

Place planter boxes in the laneway to add greenery;

Get the property owners involved; and

Provide racks to neatly house the crates waiting for collection.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is an attempt to find a solution that turns some of the sad lanes into tidy, wholesome, pleasant places that contribute to the amenity of our proud city.

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