This update has been contributed by Lisa Pollard from the Froomes Road action group.
Froomes Road Bridge & Precinct
The Froomes Road bridge adjoins the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens and is the entrance to Froomes Road, Burnett Road & Botanical Gardens Flora & Fauna Reserve. This whole area of Castlemaine is historically significant with a number of properties & sites on the Heritage Register, along with endangered flora & fauna.
There is a total of 7 overlays on the properties adjoining the bridge, the most relevant overlays include Rural Living, Environmental Significance, Significant Landscape, Heritage and Aboriginal Cultural Significance.
History & Heritage
- The bridge was built at the request of Froomes Road inhabitants, to access the Cricket Ground, located at Wattle Flat Reserve.
- Engineering Plans for the bridge were created by William Middleton – a well known Engineering family. Work to build the bridge was started in 1873 and completed in 1874.
- The bridge was built by James Ross and prisoners from the Castlemaine Gaol, assigned to hard labour on the roads as punishment for their crime.
- The stone mason was T P Jones.
- Stone used to construct the stone buttresses was sourced locally and carted in by horse and dray.
- Original stone buttresses and Sheffield steel girders are clearly visible from the Botanical Gardens and a private property on the North Side, the location of Rowe Pleasure Gardens and Mr N Gaites’s original house.
Timeline with Mount Alexander Shire Council
Prior to February 2019 Mount Alexander Shire Council CEO Darren Fuzzard seeks support from KR Castlemaine, Castlemaine Health and North West Region Fire Bridge to provide letters of support to replace the bridge, but didn’t advise or discuss with residents. MASC provided copies of letters from Castlemaine Health and Northwest Fire Bridge dated 5 February 2019. KR would not provide permission for their letter to be released.
February 2020 – Council agenda includes replacement of existing Froomes Road Bridge with a two lane bridge, suitable for double bogey semi trailers. Due to an outcry from the public and residents, a meeting was held in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens with Shire CEO Darren Fuzzard, Engineering staff and Councillor Christine Henderson. A majority of residents in attendance strongly objected to the bridge being demolished and replaced with a modern concrete structure, suitable for double bogey semi-trailers and discordant with the area.
Feb 2020 – April 2021 FRAG conducted a campaign to ensure councillors listened to the community wishes. Articles in the local newspapers, petition with over 1300 signatures, letters in the local paper and media coverage. FRAG had continued to correspond with council regarding the bridge.
April 2021 – Council voted and the replacement of the bridge was unsuccessful. Common sense had prevailed with councillors listening to residents. Cr Tony Cordy voted with a casting vote and quote of “heritage is taken away one piece at a time”.
June 2021 – Cr Bill Maltby moved a motion to “look at fixing the bridge”, so residents were under the impression the required repairs would be completed to maintain the bridge.
October 2021 – Mount Alexander Shire Council contacted several consultants to propose conducting community consultation, unbeknown to the community or FRAG.
June 2022 – FRAG received correspondence from the consultant engaged to undertake community consultation.
August 2022 – after requesting for two and a half years to be provided the engineering reports undertaken on the bridge, these were only received due to a FOI application. The engineering reports were conducted by 2015 – 2018 – And June 2021 by Pitt & Sherry. All the reports indicated the bridge was structurally sound and a 30 tonne load limit was acceptable but maintenance was required.
Aug 2022 – Meeting held in Town Hall with consultant David Haile, Project Manager Graeme Barnes, Director Michael Annear with 53 concerned residents attending, 51 of whom supported retaining the single lane bridge.
A meeting was held with consultant David Haile who advised more than 80% of respondents had indicated they were in favour of retaining the existing bridge with council completing the required maintenance undertaken.
1 August 2022 Local residents nearly hit by B-double semi-trailer on the tightest corner of Mary Street on crossing double lines & travelling on full section of the road to take the corner. B-Double had previously been witnessed using Froomes Road Bridge & Mary Street to access KR Castlemaine, despite the b-double exceeding the bridge weight limit.
13 November 2022 – Powerful owl has 2 chicks in the Botanical Gardens in cypress tree nearest the bridge.
15 November 2022, Powerful owl sighted in cypress tree near the bridge again.
November 2022 onwards – Expected the future of the bridge will be included on the agenda for the December Council meeting. We are urging community members to contact councillors, politicians, heritage survey to continue promoting retaining the single lane Froomes Road Bridge.