Road decision closer

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The one-way route through the Fearn Avenue festival precinct.
Camera IconThe one-way route through the Fearn Avenue festival precinct. Credit: Augusta Margaret River Times, Warren Hately

Councillors are set to decide on the future of the Fearn Avenue festival precinct at a meeting in Augusta next week, with an astonishing number of submissions calling for the road to remain shut to cars forever.

However, a local government solution to the impasse could mean more headlines in the future, with an option to close only part of the pedestrianised mall for the sake of one building owner and a few private parking bays — the only ones in the Margaret River CBD.

After publicity from the Times and links through the Augusta-Margaret River Times Facebook page, more than 800 submissions were made to the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s survey about the strip’s future.

The Shire’s YourSay website received a whopping 945 visitors, and the survey itself received more than 800 responses.

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Once responses were collated, the council report showed 745 ratepayers wanted to close Fearn Avenue, compared with 54 wanting it as a shared space.

“The community consultation indicates overwhelming support to close this portion of Fearn Avenue to vehicular traffic,” the report said.

However, while planners have offered councillors different options for the closure — pending any alternatives raised by councillors themselves — retaining access to the private parking bays complicates the road forward. The report outlines options to truncate the closed precinct at the edge of the existing shops, and before the private parking to the east.

Planners stated their preference to re-orient the parking bays east-west and remove the wire fence, but this was not supported by the owner of the building housing Acton, Egberts, and the Barber Shoppe.

Before the main street redevelopment, Fearn Avenue was identified as a future one-way street, though formal permission from Main Roads WA had not yet been sought.

“These private parking bays are linked to the leases of businesses operating in strata titled premises on Lot 2 Bussell Highway,” the report said. “Retractable bollards have been installed in Fearn Avenue to the west of these parking bays.

“When the bollards are up, these parking bays are inaccessible as there is a fence and water meter alongside the eastern parking bays.

“It should be noted that both the configuration and layout of these bays is a historical situation, and unlikely to be approved in this manner in a comprehensive redevelopment of the site.”

Retaining access to those bays could involve further ratepayer costs to install another line of bollards 11m from the end of the cul-de-sac, with $29,000 in external funding allocated to that job.

“This option is not preferred as it significantly reduces the area of public space and creates potential for vehicle/pedestrian conflict adjacent to the closed/pedestrianised section of Fearn Avenue,” planners said.

“This option is however difficult to implement without the consent of the affected landowner.”

The survey also asked residents for feedback on their vision for the precinct in future.

Ideas included calls for barbecues, “parking” for dogs, a bandstand, children’s playground, water refill stations, more trees and shelters, and even leases for pop-up stalls and a beer garden.

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