News

Shared streetscape gets nod

By Shepparton News

Despite not being the most popular option during community consultation, Greater Shepparton City Council has endorsed a ‘‘shared streetscape’’ design to work towards for Shepparton’s Maude St Mall.

If realised, the design would see a single lane of traffic return to the mall in the north, connecting Fryers and Stewart Sts and introduce car parking to the southern chamber of the mall.

Other sections of the mall would be utilised for park and event space under the design.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, a majority of councillors voted to adopt a shared streetscape as its preferred design to progress to a detailed design phase.

A business case on the adopted option would now be undertaken in conjunction with a detailed design, which would examine opportunities to utilise and retain existing infrastructure where possible and provide a plan for staging of construction.

Discussions on future directions for the mall have waged for several years amid commentary on the shopping strip’s retail health.

The endorsed design however was not the most popular option according to the community during more than a month of consultation.

More than 1000 responses were received by the council during six weeks of public consultation earlier this year.

From this, option 3 — a ‘New Central Public Space’ design — was ranked first, with the endorsed ‘shared streetscape’ design ranking second.

Deputy mayor Seema Abdullah said while option 3 was more popular, the results from community feedback were ‘‘so close there was no clear direction’’.

‘‘There were other criteria taken into account to determine the best option.

‘‘Taking into account all factors, option four received more combined first and second preference votes than option 3.

‘‘It also takes a more balanced approach to the key issues and themes from within the consultation data.’’

Cr Abdullah said option 4 was also ‘‘more adaptable for the future’’.

At the council meeting, councillors stressed that the design, valued at $16million, becoming a reality depended on government funding being forthcoming and that there would still be ‘‘a long way to go’’ in the discussion yet.

Cr Fern Summer questioned why a business case was being undertaken after a decision had been made, and posed a concern over a lack of ‘‘evidence it would work’’.

Cr Chris Hazelman cautioned the design wouldn’t provide a ‘‘saviour’’ to the CBD and that other measures would likely be needed also.

Only Cr Summer opposed the motion for the design to be endorsed, with the vote 6-1.

Mayor Kim O’Keeffe declared a conflict of interest, and did not vote, while Cr Dinny Adem was an apology.

A business case analysis will provide Council with a better idea of the return on investment for the project.

Cr Abdullah said the business case was a standard process to ensure ratepayers’ money is ‘‘being spent in a responsible way’’.

‘‘Council is actively advocating for funding support for this project through State and Federal Government,’’ Cr Abdullah said.

The detailed design and business case are expected to be complete by the end of next year, while a construction timeline will be determined during this period.

The construction period could last up to a year, the council said.

More accurate costings will be delivered as project planning continues.

MOVING FORWARD ON MALL A POSITIVE STEP

Shepparton central business district retailers may not be completely sold on the Maude St Mall design endorsed.

But being pleased that some action is happening in this space is something they can agree on.

However, several shop owners are pushing for a town square in Fraser St to be considered as a Telstra Tower forecourt area.

Business owner Wendy Crow congratulated the council on reaching a decision, stressing that the next step forward would be ‘‘an important one’’ as a detailed plan offers a ‘‘better idea about the end result’’.

She believed the selected option represented a design that would please most people.

Ms Crow believed an opportunity existed to integrate both the one-way traffic and parking mooted with ‘‘a vibrant town square in front of the tower’’.

‘‘I think it’s heading in the right direction,’’ she said of the design.

‘‘I still think we’re losing a big opportunity there, to make this the heart of the CBD by including a designated town square in this design.’’

Asked whether the design could boost retail outcomes, Ms Crow said one ‘‘only needed to look at the vibrancy of Fryers St to realise it can only benefit the traders for it be opened (up to traffic and parking)’’.

Mall retailer Shane Sali described his response to the design as ‘‘not negative, but not positive’’.

But, at the end of the day, he says ‘‘what is currently in place is definitely not working’’, and ‘‘what they’ve adopted is a positive step’’.

Mr Sali’s preferred design was an option with two-way traffic.

He also would have preferred ‘‘better family and open space area ... beneath the tower’’.

‘‘The (chosen) design, I can see it being a bit more congested and not so free flowing ...’’

‘‘They’ve ... come up with a solution they think will best suit everyone,’’ he said.

Some were pleased long-awaited action was being taken.

CBD business owner John Anderson was relieved ‘‘we’ve finally got a council that had the guts to make a decision to move forward’’.

‘‘Rather than put it in the too-hard, too-expensive, too-contentious box.

‘‘When you know something must be done, to do nothing is not an option.’’

Mr Anderson hoped the next phase could lead to negotiating an outcome with a lower price tag than the current $16million on the design; what he describes as ‘‘the pizza with the lot proposal’’.

The design itself ticks the fundamental boxes of better parking in the area and traffic movement, Mr Anderson said, believing this mix could present healthier retail outcomes.

But he also called for more discussion about a town square area, linking the mall to Wyndham St.

‘‘I’m thrilled with the action ... I just think there’s work to be done on the detail.’’