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Nervous wait in store for businesses

08 Sep 2016

Nervous wait in store for businesses Image

By Sean Car

Montague precinct businesses remain fearful for their futures in Southbank following two separate City of Port Phillip council meetings last month.

At its meeting on August 9, councillors heard verbal submissions from nine business and community representatives, who each expressed concerns over proposed road closures and loss of car parking in the precinct.

As part of the construction of a new vertical school and public park at Ferrars St, the City of Port Phillip has proposed permanently removing 183 car parks as well as closing and narrowing surrounding streets.

Business owners told councillors that, while they supported the new education and community precinct, current plans to remove parking and close streets would cripple their businesses.

The debate was led by the owners’ corporation (OC) at Surveyors Place, which is bordered by Ferrars, Douglas and Meaden streets and comprises more than 30 businesses employing 295 workers.

The OC, as well as South Port Urban Responsible Renewal (SPURR) community group convener Rowan Groves argued that removing all car parking was counter intuitive for both business and the new school.

The City of Port Phillip deferred its final recommendation until September 13 to provide its planning officers with more time to consult with the community.

Officers met with the Surveyors Place OC and toured the precinct following the August 9 meeting, before submitters rallied to have their say again at the August 23 council meeting.

Local architect and OC member Peter Harvey, who described Surveyors Place as an “economic and creative hub”, told councillors that all businesses wanted to work together with council to find a better solution.

Mr Harvey had presented two alternative design proposals to council, which suggested keeping roads open while maintaining and improving traffic flows, as well as relocating student drop off zones to Buckhurst and Ferrars streets.

He noted that a key criterion in the council’s priorities for the recast vision for Fishermans Bend was to retain and attract businesses and to maintain competitiveness in the creative industries.

“If this priority, as identified by council, is applied as an assessment criteria it will ensure that our creative business hub can coexist happily with the new school and park,” Mr Harvey said.

“This should ensure that there is no detrimental effect to businesses and land owners in the precinct and employment is not jeopardised.”

“If the plan goes ahead in its current form we will literally go out of business.”

The owner of Bang Bang Studios, Stephen Renfree, who has been operating his post-production business at Surveyors Place for eight years, said he had moved from his original home at Bay St, Port Melbourne because of a lack of car parking.

At last month’s turning of the sod at the vertical school, Mr Renfree told councillors that he had spoken with Victorian School Building Authority CEO Chris Keating about the issues businesses were dealing with.

“When I spoke to Mr Keating he told me that we’d all just have to find another way to do business,” Mr Renfree claimed.

“When I asked him how he and his team travelled to the site he replied ‘by car’.”

“We are all in support of the school but not at the expense of our livelihoods,” he said. “We’re keen as mustard to offer solutions.”

Councillors also heard from Tilers Express managing director Rohan Burleigh, who said his Meaden St business experienced an average of 580 customers per week travelling by car.

“Add an extra 250 students per day for drop offs and pick ups. That’s around 3000 cars per day,” Mr Burleigh said.

“That’s not to mention that it will block access for waste removal, trucks and larger emergency vehicles.”

The City of Port Phillip’s current plan proposes to narrow Ferrars St (between City Rd to Douglas St), Douglas St and Meaden St, while permanently closing the top end of Ferrars and Gladstone streets.

Railway Place would also be permanently closed to make way for an upgraded entrance to the nearby tram stop.

The narrowing and closing of streets would ultimately pave the way for more green space at Montague Park, wider footpaths and tree planting.

City of Port Phillip CEO Tracey Slatter told the meeting that as part of its joint purchase of the $19 million Montague Park site with the State Government, it had made a commitment to have the park open by 2018.

Councillors unanimously voted to amend its assessment criteria of the park from “constructible” to “can be constructible by 2018”, leaving the door open for an alternative.

Peter Harvey told Southbank Local News that further consultation with Mayor Voss, as well as council’s open space manager and landscape architect had taken place since the meetings.

He said he felt optimistic that council would adopt one of his alternatives for a “cul-de-sac” design, which proposes keeping Ferrars St open to traffic and parking, while Gladstone St would remain closed.

However, he said planning officers had informed him that, if adopted, the compromised solution would be implemented as a “transitional” five-year plan.

Mr Harvey said officers had provided no further details on its intended plans for the precinct beyond 2023.

The City of Port Phillip will announce its final plans at its council meeting on September 13.

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