The Throsby Basin Business Chamber (TBBC) is the local business representative group and is affiliated with the Hunter Business Chamber, the largest business chamber in Australia.
TBBC represents 95% of the businesses in the proposed Young St. works zone, in addition to numerous other businesses throughout the Carrington, Wickham, Islington, and Tighes Hill area.
TBBC, in principle, welcomes the Newcastle City Council decision to upgrade and improve drainage, improve road safety and undertake full road and footpath reconstruction.
A TBBC board member attended the two community workshops undertaken by council prior to the current two options being determined.
The TBBC has adopted the position incorporated in this submission, through consultation with its members and in particular with the members directly affected by the proposed works due to their proximity to the works zone. In order to truly represent its members, the TBBC has held two information sessions in Young street purely related to the works options currently on display, with consideration given to the possible/probable effects the works may have on the local businesses. One session was held immediately prior to the submission period, the other last week after the members had considered the two options proposed and the effects they may have on their individual businesses.
Some of our members may forward their own individual submissions to the proposal, however primarily our members will rely on the TBBC submission to represent their concerns.
The financial viability of our Young Street business members in particular, are pivotal to the “Commercial Viability of the Young Street Commercial Precinct “a significant objective noted in the recently adopted Local Planning Strategy.
This submission will address a number of elements under the following broad headings.
The Consultation Process:
TBBC notes some issues raised with regard to the consultation process to date. It has been stated by council that the two options proposed, and currently on exhibition are a result of the public consultation process.
TBBC notes Ordinary Council Meeting agenda 28 June 2016 , Attachments Distributed Under Separate Cover Item-57 Attachment D page 2 of 23 Table 2 Public Participation Spectrum, International Association of Public Participation (see Attachment A)
This table under column heading Inform states “to provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problems” and further in the same table under the heading Collaborate states “to partner with the public in each aspect of the decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of solutions”
The relevance of raising this matter is that at the initial community workshop held on 23 May 2015 a number of items were put forward by the Community Engagement Team which TBBC believe may have been misleading to the public and as such the resultant conclusions determined by council as a result of information gained at that meeting, including the adoption of the two options on display, may have been flawed.
In particular we raise the following:
1. Community Consultation document (see Attachment B) provided to attendees at the May 2015 workshop under the sub-heading Parking Layout options – stated 90 degrees both sides (status quo- not compliant) Staff explained at the workshop that ”not compliant “ referred to the option not being compliant with the relevant Australian standard .
It is the understanding of the writer ( who was at both community workshops ) that the general consensus of the attendees at the first community workshop was that once council removed the current parking then they must ensure the new design would be compliant and as such 90 degree parking would not be an option. When the second workshop was held in February 2016 many of the attendees who had also been at the original workshop were surprised when both the options presented included 90 degree parking. TBBC does not suggest Council purposefully mislead the public, however there was confusion. The fact that the plans were not made available to the public prior to the second workshop meant, much time was taken up at that workshop, by the attendees trying to understand how the 90 degree parking was the only option presented when it appeared from staffs presentation at the first workshop the 90 degree parking would not be an option. This confusion stifled the discussion on the options presented as people struggled to understand the process.Further TBBC questions how much consideration actually went into the parking options, and if in fact the NCC traffic department had much input into the two options proposed. We base this question partially upon the agenda for Ordinary Council Meeting Item 57 Report by Infrastructure to council at page 98 point 29, which states “There are no requirements to forward this plan to the Newcastle City Traffic Committee” (NCTC). Upon lobbying from the TBBC and the Carrington Community Council (CCC) the matter was called up before the NCTC .At the NCTC meeting on 18 July 2016 the proposed option of 90 degree parking allowing nose to kerb was unsafe, and as such decided to prohibit this option.
2.Contamination - Ground contamination was noted at both community workshops as being of major concern, and a significant factor in design considerations. Engagement team staff at the second workshop, even described the extent of the contamination as “scary”. While in documents provide at the first workshop under the heading Key Design Constraints – Industrial Contamination was noted as a factor. ( Attachments C and D )
However in a letter of response, to concerns raised regarding contamination by both the TBBC and the Carrington Community Council, Mr Ken Liddell- NCC Acting director of Infrastructure Planning admitted that contamination testing only showed hydrocarbons in the bitumen and that this was “a fairly common occurrence in many streets in the Newcastle LGA”. TBBC concedes there is historically some concern as to ground contamination in the whole of Carrington due to the unknown nature of the material used in the land reclamation, however it appears that design constraints have possibly led to such items as large raised planter boxes for the trees, which restricts both the number of parking spaces available and also the number of trees spaces available.
Recommendation: The TBBC believes due to the confusing nature of the information provided by council at the workshops, reliance on the information gained by NCC staff to produce the current options is possibly flawed and thus not compliant with the aims of the Public Participation Spectrum. For that reason TBBC recommends that council consider further workshops to develop a true indication of public opinion.
The construction period for the reconstruction works will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the trade of the businesses in the Young Street precinct. It will be critical that once a final plan is determined by council that consultation between Council staff and the effected businesses either directly or through the TBBC be undertaken to establish the construction process , construction planning, construction plant parking, construction worker parking etc. . For this reason the TBBC feels it is critical that council provide formal confirmation that consultation with the TBBC will be a paramount consideration prior and during construction.
In addition to this, there is the consideration of the possible loss of trade to the businesses even after completion of the works. Currently Young st enjoys a unique streetscape, with a mixture of quirky cafes and eateries, restored heritage buildings and probably most importantly an aesthetically pleasing tree canopy. The tree canopy also provides critical shading in summer, reducing footpath temperature and providing possibilities for footpath dining. While the TBBC appreciates that the current trees are the wrong species for the area and must be removed due to the damage they have caused to footpaths and the drainage system. It is critical that when they are removed, that the restored streetscape provide a suitable attraction for possible patrons to the area. The improvement of the viability of the Young Street Commercial strip was identified in the recently adopted Local Planning Strategy as a key objective (see attachment F). The LPS as council is aware is the NCC produced document that will in its own words, “define the future growth and development in Newcastle till 2030 and beyond”. TBBC does not feel the proposed two options in any way meet the objective of the LPS and in fact will prove extremely detrimental to the viability Young Street Commercial strip as a whole. Normally in a redevelopment project the financial pain the businesses are put through during the construction process are somewhat offset by the improved nature of the redeveloped product, TBBC does not feel that will be the case here as the finished product is in fact inferior to the existing.
Recommendation: Council must consider the full financial impact on the businesses of the proposed works and ensure the finished product meets the aims of the LPS as noted above, and improves the viability of the area.
The TBBC is aware that Newcastle City Council via the Infrastructure Planning department which is the same department responsible for the Reconstruction of Young Street has engaged external consultants to undertake a series of studies under the title of Low Lying Lands Study. Stage three of this study which apparently completes the study profile is to be completed this financial year according to the NCC operational Plan 2016/17 page 94 New Assets (see attachment “G”). It has been confirmed by council staff that this document has not been considered in the design of these works even though the study which is due for completion this financial year, and is according to the NCC Strategic Planning Department “extremely important in terms of the future enjoyment of land in Carrington “ see attachment “H” . The cost of stage three of this study was $50,000, assuming the other two stages were the same cost that is $150,000 in total for external consultants, for a study covering only four suburbs, one of which is Carrington. The TBBC finds it curious that such expense is warranted if the results are not considered pertinent to drainage works which will last 30-50 years in one of the four study suburbs.
TBBC also questions the reasoning for the Raised Planter Boxes. Our discussions with a qualified horticulturist did not assist our understanding as he too was perplexed about what the possible reasons could be. We have looked at recent plantings in Lamen st and King St and we are unable to find anywhere this option has been used before.
It is further noted in the reports that the street tree selections are in accordance with the Street Tree Selection Manual (STSM) , however we have not been able to identify anywhere in the STSM that identifies trees in raised planter boxes. Questions to council to date have also failed to obtain an answer as to why the planter boxes are needed. Especially now council has conceded that they have now clarification of any contamination in the area
Recommendation: Council does not appear to have considered all available information when finalising the design options, if delaying the construction timeframe allows further information to be included to ensure the end product is of a higher quality, then TBBC supports delaying the works till that time.
The Throsby Basin Business Chamber, as representative of the effected businesses’ cannot in good faith support either of the options put forward by council, and respectfully requests that council staff reconsider their position in light of the discussion points listed above. It is not this chambers aim to be confrontational or disrespectful to council , on the contrary we wish to take the opportunity to work with council on this project to ensure its success, however the proposed works in their present form, we feel ,will be disastrous for the local business community, even upon completion. This chamber accepts that change is required but we believe we have established sufficient reasons why more design consideration must be given to this project, to not only ensure the survival of the current businesses but to ensure councils own goals for the area are met. The TBBC is willing to work with council to seek additional funding grants, from external sources if need be, to ensure the best outcome for this area.
Author: Graham Hardes
Vice President, Throsby Basin Business Chamber
On behalf of Throsby Basin Business Chamber
Young Street Carrington
Response to Proposed Options
Submission: 22 August 2016