A new city is planned for Melbourne’s northern fringe, but the roads are already jammed

A new city is planned for Melbourne’s northern fringe, but the roads are already jammed


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A new city almost the size of Canberra and home to about 380,000 people will transform Melbourne’s outer north after an unprecedented joint meeting of local councils agreed to begin planning for the centre.

Located in the fields just north of Kalkallo, Cloverton will be roughly half the size of downtown Box Hill or Dandenong, but perform the same civic function.

Kalkallo has exploded from a rural village of just over 100 people to a suburb of about 6000.Credit: Joe Armao

It will straddle the boundaries of three outer northern councils – Hume, Whittlesea and Mitchell Shire – and will take at least 20 years to be fully built.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Fiona Stevens said the three councils wanted to avoid the kind of planning failures that were already causing peak-hour gridlock in Kalkallo.

“We want to avoid exactly what’s been done out there,” she said. “We want to bring state-of-the-art planning to an already challenging environment. Some of the historical decisions made, about an [estate] with one way in, one way out. I mean, that is just ridiculous.”

The chance to build a new home from the ground up drew Ally Watson and her husband to the grassy plains of Kalkallo five years ago. The natural beauty of Merri Creek, and the proximity of the Hume Freeway, which promised easy access to city and country alike, sweetened the deal.

Kalkallo resident Ally Watson has led a petition calling for the duplication of Donnybrook Road.Credit: Joe Armao

In six years, Kalkallo has exploded from a rural village of just over 100 people to a suburb of about 6000, according to census data.

The Watsons knew that life in a new housing estate on Melbourne’s fringe would not have all the conveniences of an established suburb.

“We recognised when we bought our block of land that we were moving into an emerging area, so not everything would be there when we were ready to move in,” Ally Watson said.

A primary school opened just last year. The suburb’s first shopping centre, the Kallo, is due to open this month.

But for most other services, and for work, residents of Kalkallo and of a string of nearby housing estates that are rapidly expanding along Donnybrook Road must leave the area on a two-lane road that is frequently congested.

“Donnybrook Road itself is a country road at best,” Watson said. “And you’ve got major [housing] estates going in there and all of those estates are spilling out onto Donnybrook Road.”

A petition launched by Watson bearing 2243 signatures was tabled in state parliament on Tuesday, calling on the state government to commit funding in next year’s budget for the duplication of Donnybrook Road.

Donnybrook Road is frequently gridlocked, says Ally Watson.Credit: Joe Armao

Watson said the frustrations that led so many Kalkallo residents to sign her petition were the symptom of a familiar failure of planning in Melbourne.

“It’s like all urban sprawl, I think the people come first and then the services and infrastructure come second,” she said. “We’ve seen it happen time and time again in so many areas in Melbourne and it fails. So why do we keep doing that?”

The joint councils meeting – the first of its kind in Victoria since the Local Government Act was changed in 2020 to allow them – ended with representatives of the three councils signing a letter urging new Premier Jacinta Allan to join with them in planning Cloverton.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to plan for a new city to service the growing northern corridor,” the letter states.

The new city centre could include a performing arts centre, a hospital campus, higher education, emergency services, as well as housing, retail and government services, the letter says.

A planned new city in Cloverton could service a future population of about 380,000 people on Melbourne’s northern fringe. Credit: Joe Armao

“However, to take this goodwill to the next level it needs the leadership of the state government to usher in a trial that illustrates a deep local-state partnership.”

The government’s new housing statement includes a target to build 70 per cent of new dwellings in existing suburbs, signalling a shift away from greenfield developments such as Cloverton.

In 2021, just 44 per cent of new housing approvals were in established suburbs.

City of Hume Mayor Joseph Haweil said the three councils endorsed the 70 per cent target, but that it would not stop the expansion of new housing at Melbourne’s northern boundary.

“More than anyone else in the state, our municipalities understand how going further and further out into the outer suburbs creates issues,” Haweil said.

“There’s no question about it, we’ve got population growth happening. And what this is, is a window of opportunity because in essence, it is a greenfield, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the future.”

City of Whittlesea council chair Lydia Wilson said the planned city would require state investment in infrastructure such as roads and rail to succeed.

The Allan government was contacted for comment.

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