Thursday, October 23, 2008

'New Northcote' or Council election stunt?

A plan to make over High Street Northcote featured in this week's Northcote Leader seems like a very positive proposal. The widening of footpaths, a 40kmh limit from Westgarth Street to Dundas Street, and a host of other measures promise to calm traffic, promote pedestrian safety and resident amenity, not to mention strengthen local businesses.

Like many local families, I certainly have concerns about speeding along High Street, and the risk of fatalities in places such as light-controlled pedestrian crossings, where cars running red lights are a regular hazard. As a keen local shopper - not only to support local businesses, but for the community feel and environmental benefits - I see many additional pluses in the proposal.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that it's only a temporary election sweetener to boost the chances of ALP Councillors in November. The plan will not go to consultation until January, and I am doubtful that it would be ultimately approved by a State Government that very much favours roads over public transport, and is dominated by the Labor Unity faction to which all our current Darebin Councillors belong.

Should I be wrong, my further concerns, which I will be expressing as part of the consultation, are that residents in other main roads such as St George's Road, Victoria, Westgarth and Station Streets (less so in the latter case because of the recent commitment to 40kmh), should not be disadvantaged by an isolated plan for High Street. While, as a resident living close to High Street, I would love nothing better than to enjoy the improvements to safety, amenity and community that would come were this plan to be realised, what about the residents on those other, more heavily populated roads? We need a comprehensive approach, including for the inclusion of cycling lanes.

While the plan has certainly come out of the blue, it is unsurprising in its feel-good character following the self-congratulation festival also known as Monday night's Darebin Council meeting. Darebin residents need to look hard at such proposals and wonder why there's so much hollow good news as we come to election time.

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Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.