Welcome to this week’s editorial, Batemans Bay is about to be turned upside down and inside out. The new bridge will see dramatic changes to traffic flows in the CBD with the once busy foreshore area serviced by the highway off-ramp relegated to an isolated corner of the town accessed only by North Street.
Adding to this will be the requirement for semi-trailers delivering to the Bridge Plaza to trundle along Clyde Street and most likely continue along the pedestrian quietened Orient Street to get out. Add to this that anyone wanting to launch a boat from the boatramp under the bridge will have to come into the CBD and drive past the shops, dealing with the proposed speed humps they are considering installing as part of the foreshore improvements. As if this isn’t enough for the next four years the interstate buses that currently collect passengers from the Old Bowling Club carpark have been advised that they will now have to use the same bus bays as the local buses outside the Starfish Deli. That in itself presents a problem as those buses don’t have the same turning circle as the town buses and the capacity to park so many buses there at peak times is not met. And those buses will also have to exit via Orient Street. In a nut shell …. Chaos and more than likely financial consequences to the Clyde Street businesses who have already suffered distinct trading pressures during the streetscaping projects that saw many in the town stay away from what appeared to be a rolling construction site that also impacted North Street and Orient Street traders. But it might all be fine because we have our faith in the Town Planners. Those charged with the vision of where Batemans Bay is going and sit quietly, considerately, constructing the town-scape of the future. Those on the newly formed committee which has been set up to consider the new layout of the foreshore once the old bridge is removed have, as their brief, the need to consider the Batemans Bay Town plan…. But what is that plan? Google it and you will discover that Council adopted the Batemans Bay Town Centre Structure Plan on 22 April 2008. Back in 2008 this is what they wrote of the Clyde Street foreshore: Foreshore improvement works and enhanced service buildings will improve visitor amenity and provide for a vibrant foreshore café and maritime activity scene. Boating and marine activities providing services and products for onwater activities, combined with specialist tourist related retail and food outlets, will dominate the ground level frontages onto the walkway. Open spaces will host a variety of local, cultural and national events over extended hours throughout the year. The waterfront promenades will cater to an expanded range of activities, providing opportunities for out-of-hours functions and extended access. Tourist accommodation will be plentiful, offering another dimension to the vitality of the town life. It all sounds pretty nice and reads well but is it just words … ten years on and we are looking at the foreshore area becoming an isolated corner of the town that will lose its critical clientele, being those who arrive to the precinct via the current bridge off ramp.
Now let’s look a little wider. Council bought the Bowling Club site as it had a vision to expand the CBD into that quarter. The plan was for a bus station, visitor information centre, offices, shops, a conference centre and tourist accommodation. All of that has landed on its arse since the announcement of the Mackay Park Leisure centre with tacked on, less than satisfactory, performance space and the announcement of the new Batemans Bay bridge. Blind Freddy has long known that the pool, as it was, was on the edge of town, opposite a school and a safe walk for kiddies. The school has now been relocated and anyone wanting to attend the pool has to drive. The pool is now “out of the way”. The forefathers of Council recognised this many years ago and suggested a new regional pool should be considered central to the region, possibly at Broulee. In the end they opted for Hanging Rock. But for some reason as yet unexplained Council decided to change its mind and agree, in a back room discussion, to move the pool idea to Mackay Park without explanation. From that point it became more and more obvious that they had no idea about a “Batemans Bay Town Plan” as they knee-jerked from one idea to the next which has now resulted in a decision to build a complex that many in the community feel is in the wrong place, offering a mediocre vision without clear statement around the financial impact it will impose to ratepayers in the short and long term. The dissatisfaction with the consultation process, the determinations being made and the back-room handshakes being done is fast seeing this project become more than an elephant in the room that is being spoken of. The disquiet is gaining traction and that disquiet is being aired publicly. In terms of visionaries we have all too few. The town planning design of Batemans Bay is very much the same for all of our towns, which is reactive rather than proactive. Much of the community consultation is token, as has been the case with Mackay Park. Yes, Council may have “listened” however that is not apparent in the plans they have presented.The new Batemans Bay bridge will have a considerable impact on Batemans Bay CBD. Anyone driving south will HAVE TO KNOW that you access the foreshore ONLY from North Street. Drive on to Beach Road and you have gone too far (unless you want to direct tourists to the foreshore via the chicane of Perry Street.) With four lanes of Vesper Street and the new bridge this will be a town bypass like we have never seen before. With the proposed opening of the Spine Road you will see traffic coming south off the bridge, bypassing the Bay CBD, driving along the strip industrial alleyway of Vesper Street, and then going on to turn left to access the coastal towns. Without adequate signage to seduce tourists to stop that will simple drive on. The Batemans Bay CBD needs an injection that is more than tourism. A good town planner might consider that a town centre needs people in order to be vibrant all year around, rather than seasonally. Being a town planner they might consider what should be done to ensure shops are occupied, staffed and prosperous.. All year around. Having a pool tacked on to the side of a town by-pass won’t do much for the CBD economy. What will bring prosperity to the CBD and to the region would be the idea that the old Bowlo site be used as a high rise office space for a government agency relocating to regional NSW. With that would come new families, new home building, white collar employment opportunities that might assist in keeping our youth in the region, an injection of spending into the CBD year around (if a pedestrian overpass was provided) and all the positives that come with an increase in population in the region such as providing further need for a single regional hospital able to best serve a growing client base. “If you build it they will come” The Bay, as it stands, is also disjointed. The old Orient Street end still plays second cousin to its Foreshore and Mall siblings. Semi-industrialised, this section has attracted its own string of businesses who rely on determined visitation rather than window shoppers. The likelihood of a Dan Murphy to the area will also see the “bulk outlet vision” retained. So who are our town planners and what is their vision for the new Batemans Bay with its bridge, its inevitable four-lane bypass that trundles along an industrial corridor offering no hint of foreshore attractions. What are their visions for the CBD of the future and who are all these people that they assure us will come to enjoy the - High quality clothing boutiques, gifts and household goods; - Delicatessen, specialty food retailing, quality fresh foods; - Local food and wine outlets; - Tourist/visitor retailing; - Local art and craft outlets; - Antiques, and - Wine bars, cafes and music venues that they have so nicely described in their 2008 plan for the foreshore? Such a dream requires investors and financial certainty. Sadly those who are town planners are not business people. No responsibilities nor consequences. Just colour pencils and toy blocks. Until next, Lei