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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

What price "progress"?

Orient Street retailers are doing it hard while the precinct works go ahead. The decision to streetscape sections of North Street at the same time as a major project on Orient Street through to Vesper of new retail spaces and additional carparking is pushing the tolerances of affected local businesses.

Traders in the Central Bay shopping precinct are now also concerned as Council still proposes to further upgrade and revitalise the Batemans Bay town centre area adjacent to Orient Street to enhance outdoor dining and social spaces specifically in the area bounded by the southern side of North Street between Perry Street and Orient Street, and both sides of Orient Street between North Street and Beach Road adopting a style consistent with Clyde Street. But what price comes with this “progress”?

Many local traders within the currently affected precinct are noting a downturn in trade due to the physical nature of the general works in the area which has resulted in a high percentage of customer carparks being cordoned off for trades vehicles and material delivery. Fortunately those traders affected, from North Street to Vesper Street, have committed customers who do what they can to support local business by having to overcome the lack of parking and of having to navigate the witches hats and barricades with shopping trolleys and prams. The financial burden of loss of trade in this precinct, as a result of compromised parking, noise, confusion and pedestrian detours, has pushed affected local businesses to go to the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce for support. At the last Chamber meeting members were informed that the Chamber had contacted council who advised that works were being expedited through extra crews and working through the night 24/7. Council also advised that some nights work could not occur due to health and safety issues of that work.

Members at the Chamber meeting also heard that Council parking rangers were advised to be "accommodative" through this difficult time. Photos of Orient Street, North Street and of the carpark behind the Bridge Plaza provided by affected owners show that customer parking to this precinct has been compromised so some extent during trading hours. While many might believe that “it will benefit those affected in the long term” the question needs to be raised “How long can those businesses continue with reduced trade?” Eurobodalla Councillors and the Mayor, attending the last Batemans Bay Chamber meeting, were advised that the impact of the works during trading hours has resulted in financial downturns.

It is not known if there was consultation with affected businesses of the precinct prior to the work commencing, outlining the loss of parking and the probable disturbance/downturn to trading. Those spoken to by The Beagle were not consulted or informed. Nor were they advised to the extent of works, the limitation of parking, the physical compromise of their customers nor the possible financial stress they would be forced to endure.

Many are also saying that Council has also overlooked a critical element, clearly understood by the private sector, which is that shopper’s habits can change if they leave a traditional precinct. There is now a fear by currently affected traders and those looking at future disruptions from further streetscaping that some shoppers may not return to their precinct and their doorway.

It is expected that the current works will continue until the second or third week in December which adds further concern to those traders critically dependent on pre-Christmas trading. There has now been a formal request for the following agenda items to be raised at the next Batemans Bay Chamber meeting: CBD Streetscape update, Parking in CBD, Pay parking in the CBD and The trading down turn

It has long been requested that an additional element be added to Council reports that discusses the financial burden and social consequence to the community of any decisions that they make. The financial burden and consequence to local traders in regards to this project were not made evident to those affected. While all the works are going on please continue to support your North/Orient Street traders who stand ready to serve with open doors

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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