Houses will be built on council-owned land at the edge of the Whittlesea Public Gardens in a bid to improve safety at the Lalor park.

As part of a master plan for the Barry Road park, the council will sell the Downs Road reserve on the eastern edge of the park as housing, allowing up to 33 properties to be built on the land.

The houses will front the Whittlesea Public Gardens and money from the sale will be reinvested in the gardens.

The proposal has been criticised by residents. The council received a petition from 97 residents and nine non-residents in August, calling for the proposal to be scrapped.

The petition said residents paid a premium for land and homes near the gardens on the basis there would be no further housing behind Killara Street and Network Drive.

According to the master plan, development along Downs Road will improve passive surveillance and public safety at the park.

“The alignment of the entry from Barry Road and dense planting means there are no views into the main carpark from adjoining roads or houses. Gates are used to restrict after hours access however rates of vandalism and other illegal activities are far higher at Whittlesea Public Gardens than at other similar sized reserves across the city,” the master plan stated.

The master plan also proposes upgrading paths, installing new lighting, thinning vegetation and realigning the entry road.

Other inclusions are replacing the toilet block, upgrading to the off-leash area, playground, barbecue areas and shelter, creating two new multi-use hard courts with night lighting at the northern end of the lake, and reinstating the southern end of the lake.