Maribyrnong council has moved to quell a growing backlash to proposed plans for redeveloping public open space with improved sports grounds.
The council adopted a new master plan for Footscray Park in February that paves the way for Melbourne Victory to create three new soccer pitches in Footscray Park.
Last month it began community consultation on the West Footscray Sports Facility Plan, which proposes to upgrade sporting facilities in Shorten Reserve, Barrett Reserve and Johnson Reserve.
Concept designs triggered an outpouring of concern from residents worried about the potential loss of open space, playgrounds and a scout hall.
Maribyrnong mayor Martin Zakharov said the council acknowledges “there has been a lot of concern” about the possible changes.
“Our community is growing, and we need to make sure that what we do will cater for our current users, as well as lasting well into the future,” he said.
“To date, we have consulted with over 20 sports clubs, user groups and community groups about the West Footscray Sports Facility Plan. We have spoken with four local schools and conducted surveys with five sporting clubs.”
Cr Zakharov said the information has been used to develop seven concept plans.
“None of the concepts include the removal of playgrounds or skate parks or reduction in open space, they show different options for placing the facilities,” he said.
Brendan Borg, who has gathered more than 1000 signatures on an online petition to ‘Save parks and playgrounds in West Footscray’, said the decision to broaden consultation showed the power of the community working together.
“When it concerns shared spaces everyone needs to have the opportunity to have their say,” he said.
“Locals care dearly about these community hubs and how they are used, they need to be protected.”
Meanwhile, Cr Zakharov said the new soccer sports academy at Footscray Park would develop “an underutilised” western section of the park.
“Any final masterplan will seek to meet community needs including walking and dog access and possible after hours use of the grounds.”
A drop-in session on the West Footscray Sports Facility Plan will be held at at Johnson Reserve from 3pm to 6pm on May 27.