Stephen Aitken

Real estate agent Stephen Aitken says he was disappointed that staff learnt of the plans while he was out. Picture: Sarah Matray


CHELTENHAM businesses have spoken of arrogant and abrupt officials rushing to deliver bombshell news that the government might take their buildings.


A row of community businesses — including a chemist, dentist, accountant and real estate agent — are in line for demolition if the Andrews Government opts for a below-ground railway instead of sky rail to get rid of the Cheltenham’s Charman Rd level crossing.


In all 36 homes and businesses may be lost with some, such as community-owned Cheltenham Pharmacy First, likely to go regardless of the final design.


As if the news delivered on Monday evening wasn’t bad enough, its delivery made things worse, say business owners who told the Herald Sun that Level Crossing Removal Authority representatives were “aggressive”, “abrupt” and rushed.


Real estate agent Stephen Aitken said authority representatives visited on Monday, speaking to his staff while he was out.


“It’s disappointing. Unfortunately, my staff knew before I did. They were worried about their futures.”


Although it meant a significant personal upheaval, Mr Aitken said removing the “terrible” level crossing was “progress”.


He expected the underground option would go ahead and he hoped the government would offer appropriate compensation.A few doors along, accountant Peter Smith said the authority phoned him on Monday about 4.45pm wanting to meet in half an hour.


He said he found the “loud” manner of one of the two officials “aggressive”.


His company, Randsmith Accountants, had existed for more than 25 years, the past 10 years with him as owner.


Mr Smith said he was “sceptical” of the authority because its decision-making seemed to be tied up in politics.


Dentist Dr Tony Heilberg has worked in his building for 29 years. News that he might have to move caught him by surprise and he felt in limbo until a decision was made.



Originally published by Kathryn Powley, Herald Sun