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Street revamp pushed back

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Margaret River's main street redevelopment will now start in February.
Camera IconMargaret River's main street redevelopment will now start in February. Credit: Warren Hately

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s main street redevelopment is now expected to kick off in February — and comes amid the sudden departure of new project manager Sean Shields.

Business operators were told the news this week, with Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown saying the decision followed feedback from traders.

“Council listened to our local traders and appreciated their concerns about potential interruption to Christmas trade should the project have started as initially slated in October,” she said. “The project team has now rescheduled key milestone dates and stage requirements to align with these changes.

“We feel very confident the new schedule now provides the best support to our local businesses, and the Shire will be able to adequately manage the staging costs within the available budget.”

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The paperwork for the re-tender process was due to go before potential contractors by the end of the month.

The Shire said Mr Shields was returning to the UK for personal reasons, but the redevelopment would remain in-house, with veteran Shire officers taking charge.

“Shire works manager Peter Brown will now assume the role of main street project manager, with the support of Shire co-ordinator technical services Chris Yates,” a Shire statement said.

“Both will work under the direction of the chief executive and the executive leadership team.”

Ms Addison-Brown said it made sense to keep the project management in-house.

“We have highly qualified and experienced staff, with the right local knowledge for the project right at our fingertips and we want to use them for this priority project,” she said.

A public forum in August heard angst from some main street businesses about the upcoming redevelopment, which was expected to eat into the critical summer trading period.

But an election debate last week also heard some operators express a contrary view, wishing the project would start immediately for the sake of certainty, and because some businesses had made plans for the proposed October start date which now required a rejig. Some attendees also said “listening to traders” was an excuse because the Shire was behind schedule.

First National real estate director Barry Granville said feedback from traders said the past winter was “harsh” for the main street and came on the back of two painful years.

“Main street traders are really hurting,” he said.

“Everyone’s really looking forward to the summer.”

Some traders told the Times they experienced better-than-expected visitation during the school holidays.

But they remained concerned at the disruption for future visitors — and the awareness around it — with cost and time overruns expected.

The Shire said a local trades directory would be provided to the chosen contractor and local suppliers interested in components of the work were encouraged to apply by Wednesday.

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