The controversial plan to revive Melton’s ailing town centre


The four lane road currently carries about 18,000 vehicles a day, including more than 1000 trucks. Its width is a legacy of its former function as part of the highway between Melbourne and Ballarat.

The council’s new plan seeks to “de-emphasise High Street as a place for cars” by replacing two lanes with a separated commuter cycleway, shared path and wider median strip with room for extra trees. Any such change would require a review by the Department of Transport and Planning because High Street has been gazetted as a state highway.

An overhead view of High Street, Melton, which could be transformed with new bike lanes and walking paths.

An overhead view of High Street, Melton, which could be transformed with new bike lanes and walking paths.Credit: Jason South

Queensland-based property giant QIC, which owns Woodgrove, has objected to the council’s characterisation of the shopping centre as taking business away from central Melton, labelling it “untrue” and urging council to delete such statements from the plan.

But the council held the line, arguing the expansion of Woodgrove is a significant factor in High Street’s decline and “should not be understated”.

It is estimated that retailers in the town centre have an annual turnover of about $236 million, but as much as $432 million is being spent at other shops outside the downtown catchment.

Kris Testi is a lifetime resident of central Melton and recalls working in High Street 20 years ago “when it was the bustling heart of Melton”.

High Street, Melton’s traditional commercial heart, has lost trade to the large Woodgrove shopping centre.

High Street, Melton’s traditional commercial heart, has lost trade to the large Woodgrove shopping centre. Credit: Jason South

Today she manages Melton Florist, one of the street’s longest-running businesses. She has had first-time customers from estates in new parts of Melton tell her they had no idea High Street even has retail businesses.

“Many people don’t know we exist here,” Testi said. “It used to be the epicentre of Melton: it had a cool surf shop, clothing shops, a good mix of businesses that drew a lot of people down.”

Testi has seen an increase in homelessness in central Melton, which has always been a disadvantaged part of the municipality, and said she feared a streetscape makeover could fail unless the area’s social problems are also tackled.

“I’m all for beautifying this end of Melton, but we need to address the demographic that is in need of services.”

The public amphitheatre next to the council offices on High Street has been used as a refuge for rough sleepers as homelessness rates increased in Melton in recent years, according to Council to Homeless Persons data.

Accountant Rob Maslak, who has worked in the High Street retail precinct for decades, said the strip is dominated these days by take-away outlets and service providers such as real estate agencies and solicitors.

“It’s not really a walk around and enjoy yourself type area,” he said.

Melton accountant Rob Maslak supports a council plan to build more housing in the suburb’s centre.

Melton accountant Rob Maslak supports a council plan to build more housing in the suburb’s centre. Credit: Jason South

Maslak said he would be “more than happy” to see the council sell off under-used parks for higher-density homes, so that more people live within walking distance of the shops. The area, which is more than three kilometres from rail, also needs better buses, he said.

“It is important because Melton is so spread out, and walking into the CBD is not available to most people.”

Council’s plan proposes developments of three to six storeys at a handful of small parks in central Melton, and potentially at the council offices, should they be relocated.



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