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Council plan puts businesses at risk

12 Jul 2016

Council plan puts businesses at risk Image

By Sean Car

Southbank business owners say the way the City of Port Phillip plans to construct a new education and community precinct along Ferrars St will send them broke.  

While the local businesses are unanimous in their support of the new vertical primary school and public park, they say the current plan to permanently close roads and remove on-street car parking will kill them.

The owners’ corporation (OC) at Surveyors Place, which is bordered by Ferrars, Douglas and Meaden Streets, presented an impact statement and alternative proposal to the City of Port Phillip at a meeting this month.

The presentation, led by OC member and local architect Peter Harvey, stressed that removing all car parks and restricting larger and emergency vehicle access would cripple many businesses and see property values plummet.

The council’s current plan would see the removal of 183 car parks in the precinct, as well as the permanent closure of Railway Place and the top end of Ferrars and Gladstone Streets.

The closure and narrowing of streets would ultimately pave the way for more green space at Montague Park, wider footpaths, tree planting and an upgraded entrance to the nearby tram stop.

While businesses are busy lobbying council, the final decision ultimately rests in the hands of Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, who can decide irrespective of the council’s recommendation.

Mr Harvey, who has operated his architecture practice out of Douglas St for more than 15 years, has called on Mr Wynne to listen to the local business community.

“We agree entirely with the school and park so we’re not anti the Ferrars St education precinct. We need schools, but to suddenly decimate our livelihoods is really serious,” he said.

“These buildings will become defunct, totally compromised and unusual because no one will want to buy them. They’ll be unusable.”

“There are businesses like the tile shop and the soil samplers, which simply can’t operate without vehicle access. We can’t live with having not only that restriction but having it decimated in price.”

Referred to as an “economic and creative hub”, which employs 295 workers across more than 30 businesses, Mr Harvey said council had so far been responsive to concerns of the business precinct.

With a number of creative and multimedia based businesses, which would complement a local school, Mr Harvey said that ensuring the security of the hub was in the community’s interest.

“We’re a very eclectic group of businesses and we’re not offensive to the school,” he said. “The loss of this vibrant creative and economic hub and all the rest of it would be devastating.”

“We’ve also got more than 6000 apartments already approved within 500 metres of us now and there is one already going up. So to cut down existing car parking to meet that philosophy doesn’t make any sense.”

Businesses have also argued that the current plans would also have a detrimental impact on the day-to-day functionality of the school.

One of the main student drop off zones has been placed within close proximity to the Gladstone St brothel along Kerr St, while many have questioned where teachers, school visitors and users of the adjoining future sports and community facility would be expected to park.

Mr Harvey’s alternative proposal has suggested keeping roads open while maintaining and improving parking and traffic flows, as well as relocating the drop off zones to Buckhurst and Ferrars streets.

City of Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss said council would not be in a position to make a decision on the proposed changes until the public consultation process ended on July 22.

“We appreciate the time they have taken to provide this alternative proposal, which will be carefully considered along with the other community feedback received,” she said.

“We are also seeking feedback from emergency services about emergency vehicle access to the new park and Ferrars, Douglas, Meaden and Gladstone streets.”

“Council officers will keep representatives of Surveyors Place informed of the next steps, which include an opportunity for community members to speak at a council meeting next month.”

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne didn’t respond to efforts by Southbank Local News to contact him for comment.

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