Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour sequel at Westgarth issues meeting?

Laudable as this weekend's Earth Hour climate event may be, we don't want to be kept in the dark again at the Route 86 Westgarth meeting next Tuesday 31 March, when Darebin Council expects to resolve complex service road and parking issues in the space of a single hour.

One of four so-called roundtable discussions - and the only one devoted to Westgarth issues - Tuesday's meeting looks set to repeat the pattern of last week's public meeting - a lengthy preamble by officers about the overall context for the project, complex information made available for the first time on which the audience is asked to comment on the spot, and major issues that deserve in-depth treatment compressed into the short time left over for actual public discussion.

The meeting will take place nearly two weeks after the 18 March public meeting at Northcote Town Hall, and two weeks before the 14 April deadline for submissions on the Route 86 proposal.

Given that the key issues are already clear - the High Street service road treatment, the parking implications for businesses and residents, and cycling - there is little reason why Council should not publish on the web any further work done on the options well in advance of the roundtable discussion. This has been communicated to Council at Officer and Councillor level, as well as to the company engaged by Council to facilitate the consultation.

In the lead-up to the meeting, a group of Westgarth business owners yesterday met with Rucker Ward Councillor, Trent McCarthy. While the meeting was described as 'constructive', the acid test will not be media photo-opportunities, but the public stance taken by Councillor McCarthy on issues such as the service road, parking, and the consultation process. The same goes for Mayor Diana Asmar and Councillor Steven Tsitas, Rucker's two other Council representatives. Individual assurances given in small meetings must be reflected in a broader public position that is advocated to Council to improve the community outcome.

As the deadline for submissions approaches, Westgarth businesses have given strong support to a petition stating that the loss of parking, particularly from Ruckers Hill, will have a deleterious effect on businesses in the strip. More than 78 parking spaces will be lost in all the current options, with no specific research gaving been undertaken by Council to show how Westgarth customers arrive in the strip. While business owners further north are worried by their own loss of parking, the situation in Westgarth is exacerbated by the lack of dedicated parking areas behind shops. Sounds like more than hour's worth, doesn't it?

See all posts on the Tram Stop Route 86 Corridor Project.

1 comment:

  1. Despite commitments given at the meeting on 18 March that further information would be posted on the Council website about the need for the slip lane, this has not occurred to date. The justification being given for this is that the relevant traffic management report is large and complicated. Instead, copies of the report will be burned to cd and placed behind the counter at the Northcote Service Centre for viewing.
    The Council’s transport management and transport planning office has also indicated that the Consultants involved in the project will be asked to take notes of the roundtable discussions and these notes will be placed on the Darebin website.
    It is also interesting to note that Bicycle Victoria have published a page setting out there concerns relating to the Route 86 project. In relation to the Westgarth Street intersection, the page states:
    “Bad for bikes. Bicycle Victoria has asked Council to review.

    This is a very important junction in the bike network. Our Super Tuesday bike counts showed a large and growing number of riders travel throught this intersection in all directions. In the morning the southbound and westbound movements particularly are extremely important. This will invert in the pm.
    We have asked Council to review this intersection to incorporate more bike friendly elements for these movements.”


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