Street closures not open & shut case

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Settlers Tavern co-owner Rob Gough and team cook up a storm at January’s Fiesta.
Camera IconSettlers Tavern co-owner Rob Gough and team cook up a storm at January’s Fiesta. Credit: Picture: Sean Blocksidge, Sean Blockside

Past and future main street closures were front and centre of a meeting between traders and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River last week.

A debate for and against closed traffic in the Festival Precinct was heard, with Shire officers reporting strong interest from event operators wanting to close the main street as was done for January’s post-makeover street party.

The meeting heard local traders speak up about what was previously an open secret: January’s Main Street Fiesta was a disaster for daytime businesses.

Meeka House owner Jennifer Gherardi said the Fiesta shut the street too early in the day, killing trade for retailers.

“Other traders spoke to me in the street,” she said.

“It killed trade for the whole day,” she said.

Shire corporate and community services director James Shepherd conceded more work would be done as part of developing a new street closure policy.

“If we did that event again, we would do it differently too,” he told the forum.

Chamber of Commerce president Melissa d’Ath asked officers for “actual consultation” with businesses before any sign-off.

“Every time an event is going to shut the street, the businesses have to have a say because that is their livelihood,” she said.

Some businesses argued Fearn Avenue’s festival space — minus cars — was designed to host events without closing the main street.

“Events can happen on a big scale without closing the street,” Ms Gherardi said.

“Looking at closing a whole commercial precinct, you want to have a pretty good rationale.”

The Shire could also “pay us to be shut”.

Beach Life owner Helen Thompson said the January closure went for too long.

Sustainable economy officer Saul Cresswell said the daytime closure was needed to allow pre-parked cars to exit safely without hitting pedestrians.

The forum also discussed “activation” of the main street to boost the local economy.

Along with the closure policy, a street activation policy would seek trader feedback on concepts like alfresco dining and buskers.

Mr Shepherd stressed utilising footpaths was not just for restaurants and cafes, with proposals welcomed amid a relaxation in red tape.

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