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Businesses suffer as“Utopia goes mad”

06 Oct 2016

Businesses suffer as“Utopia goes mad” Image

By Sean Car

Surveyors Place and Meaden St business owners were left shell-shocked by City of Port Phillip councillors last month, following their decision to close roads and remove all car parking around their businesses.

As part of the construction of a new vertical school and public park for Fishermans Bend at Ferrars St, council has proposed permanently removing 183 car parks as well as closing and narrowing streets – a move business owners say would cripple them.

Surveyors Place business owner and owners’ corporation (OC) member Peter Harvey described the decision as “utopia gone mad,” with a final decision now in the hands of the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne.

And, with the State Government releasing its 2050 vision document for Fishermans Bend this month, hopes for a rational outcome are diminishing.

As part of its vision, the government has set a target for 80 per cent of transport movements in Fishermans Bend to be made via public transport, walking or cycling.

Mr Harvey and South Port Urban Responsible Renewal (SPURR) convener Rowan Groves met with members of the Fishermans Bend taskforce last month but were given little scope for optimism.

“It was polite. However they seemed interested in the whole master plan for the whole of Fishermans Bend, not the intricacies of the effect of their policies on the inhabitants – businesses or occupants,” Mr Harvey said.

“They said they had little influence over the City of Port Phillip. However, decisions by the council are having great impact on how their vision is implemented in the future for a truly functional future city.”

The Surveyors Place OC had been given hope by council’s planning officers in lead up to the September 13 council meeting, having put forward a compromised recommendation to keep Ferrars St open and delay works at Meaden St until 2023.

With council hoping to have the education and community precinct delivered in its full vision by 2018, the compromise 2023 sunset clause would have provided owners with a five-year transitional period.

However, after business owners made submissions to councillors for a third time in two months, they were ultimately left stunned as Cr Amanda Stevens moved an alternative motion to scrap officers’ recommendation entirely.

Instead, Cr Stevens proposed to provide a total of 20 special staff car parking permits within 200 metres of Ferrars St, which would free up 20 car parks within Surveyors Place to customers, visitors and couriers.

Some 25 to 50 four-hour/all-day on-street car parks in the precinct would be reduced to 2-hours to accommodate visitor parking needs, paving the way for Ferrars St to be permanently closed and provide a bigger Montague Park.

Councillors voted six to one in favour of the alternative motion. Emerald Hill Ward Cr Anita Horvath was the only councillor to oppose it.

Mayor Bernadene Voss said that, while she heard the “genuine concerns” of businesses, councillors needed to show leadership.

“If Fishermans Bend is to be realised we can’t have our discussions be dominated by what to do with cars and parking. It’s just not feasible,” she said. “This brand new school precinct has a unique opportunity to do things differently and I say (to) councillors we need to be brave.”

“What is required now and tonight is leadership. We need strong leadership to realise our unerring vision,” she said. “Today the long-term community is unrepresented. They’re actually not there yet. In fact, they haven’t arrived.”

Cr Andrew Bond said the opportunity to provide additional open space was too important to remain as car parking.

“We’ve heard your concerns that you need parking for your customers, your couriers and visitors who need to come and access your businesses all day so there is an alternative there,” he said.

Cr Anita Horvath, who opposed the alternative motion, said that while it was regrettable that there was no perfect solution, businesses hadn’t been given enough time to digest the alternative motion.

“This alternative recommendation is only being discussed today,” she said. “Business owners have not had the opportunity to digest the implications of this.”

“I think that creative industries and the work they provide the community and the financial stresses that are on the owners to maintain those businesses is a very real and needs to be accommodated as well.”

Described as a creative and economic hub compromising a range of creative industries, Surveyors Place business owners were left infuriated by the decision, with some even yelling at councillors as they exited the chambers.

A key action of the government’s recast vision for Fishermans Bend is to foster new and support existing creative industries.

With former planning minister Matthew Guy’s decision to rezone Fishermans Bend as a capital city zone virtually stripping the community of third party rights, Mr Harvey said businesses had been “totally ignored for political expediency.”

“All we are actually asking for is a solution, which allows the school, the park and Surveyors Place Creative Business Hub to co-exist together. They have heard the submissions but have totally disregarded the interest and concerns of the very businesses they are seeking to encourage.”

Mr Harvey said he had sought meetings with Richard Wynne and member for Albert Park Martin Foley, but so far, without success.

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