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Business case welcome, but uncertainty over Melbourne Metro Rail Project route needs to be resolved urgently

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The public release of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project business case has been welcomed today, but lawyers are warning the exact configuration of the route needs to be resolved sooner rather than later.

Slater and Gordon Compulsory Acquisition Lawyer Roger Batrouney said the business case has left a number of questions unanswered.

“It is admirable that the current state government has released this business case, something that a number of our East West Link clients tried very hard to get the previous government to do,” Mr Batrouney said.

“However, the business case has revealed that a number of alternative routes for the project are under serious consideration, meaning that additional properties could be compulsorily acquired.

“It is vital that land owners who are going to be affected by this project are notified by the government as soon as possible, so that they can seek appropriate and timely legal advice.”

Mr Batrouney expects further acquisitions will be announced in the near future.

“The Victorian Government has only given vague indications as to the number of properties that will be acquired, but we expect further acquisitions, of both freehold and leasehold interests,” Mr Batrouney said.

“I urge the government to seriously consider how best to accommodate the needs of not only those whose homes are required for this project, but also to remember those whose properties will be substantially affected, but not necessarily required.

Mr Batrouney said it’s important that the mistakes of the East West Link project are not repeated.

“One of the most important lessons we learnt during the East West Link planning process was just how widely a major development project can impact the local community,” Mr Batrouney said.

“It’s important to remember that properties that fall outside the arbitrary line of the project boundary are not immune from the impacts of the development."

“In the case of East West Link, the government at the time offered 88 home owners the chance to sell their properties to the government on a voluntary basis.

“This was only offered after the statutory committee examining the project found that they were going to be significantly adversely affected and, by implication, should have been compulsorily acquired in the first instance.

“It’s really important property owners understand their rights because this is a complicated area of law and their entitlement to compensation can be significantly higher than the government’s offer.”