DRAFTS of the revised Queen Street Warragul beautification project have been released to the public with one major difference: the controversial plan to plant trees in the cycling/parking lanes has been felled.
Above: some of the holes dug for tree planting on Queen Street. Photo: author.
“The immediate proposal going forward is not planting trees in the road, refreshing the line marking for the cyclists, keeping the existing lane widths, providing some very modest kerb extensions at two of the intersections, improving some low level plantings at North Road… and there’s an opportunity to put in some rain gardens along there,” Baw Baw community assets director Phil Cantillon told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen on Tuesday.
Business and cycling groups raised safety and parking concerns about the shared lane tree planting plan shortly after the first holes were dug. Works on the section of road between Normanby Street and North Road began in October but were quickly stopped after complaints from business owners. The small number of holes dug for trees were later filled in.
Some plantings will still occur in the shared lane, but they will consist of low-level shrubs and will not take up as much of the lane. The bike area will be marked in the standard green along the garden bed areas. East of North Road, where there are no businesses with frontage to Queen Street, the plans remain the same.
“There’s an opportunity to plant a number of trees from North Road through to Bloomfield Road, not in all areas but where we can,” Mr Cantillon said.
“Options for consideration in the future are maybe widening the footpath on the north side east of the rail underpass, potentially in the future but not part of this project and subject to ongoing discussions with the community about what’s in the long-term infrastructure plan.”
Mr Cantillon and council representatives have met with stakeholders several times since works were suspended. Warragul Business Group secretary Pauline Luchetta told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen the group’s requests had been responded to in the revised plan.
“This is plan three,” Ms Luchetta said.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings with the shire and those representatives. We’re keeping some beautification as well as keeping all the businesses open and have some safety for the vehicles and trucks going down the road.
“The council has been fantastic to work with and any concerns we’ve had they’ve just deleted it out of the plans.”
Ms Luchetta was also excited by the formation of a project community reference group for the wider Warragul beautification works.
Above: Pauline Luchetta, Phil Cantillon and Baw Baw infrastructure engineer Haunu Suan with the revised plans on display at the Gippsland Business Centre this week.
“For the wider Warragul CBD group there’s a project reference group of around 30 people which has been set up,” Mr Cantillon explained.
“It involves emergency services, key stakeholders including the Warragul Business Group, Cycling Club, etcetera. The intent of that is to have a reference body the council can talk to throughout the development and delivery of the Warragul CBD project. That can be a group [can] hopefully work through any issues or opportunities along the way and own the collective outcome.
“It’s something we did for the Warragul Leisure Centre redevelopment project which went really well. We’ve had that in place for probably over 18 months now.”
The wider Warragul project will look at improving streetscapes in the CBD. An information kiosk will be opened by the council this month to discuss the plan with locals.
Queen Street works could restart, with revised plans, before Christmas.
Many objectors to the Queen Street plan said they had not been informed. Asked by the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen if the council would be changing its communication methods with affected businesses for future projects, Mr Cantillon said lessons had been learnt.
“One of the suggestions which came through which was a very good one was when you send a mail-out to someone who’s running a business, make sure you send it out to the owner as well,” he said.
“We thought that’s very effective because the owner might not be the occupier of the business. There’s little things like that which are coming though. Someone suggested that… if it had come to them at the same time there might have been a high level of support, potentially.
“We’re happy to take on board any of those ideas and make sure we craft them as part of our engagement strategy going forwards.”
The Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen also asked, given the tree planting plan was intended to improve the look of Queen Street as one of the major town entrances, if the onus was now on businesses to make sure their shop fronts look good for the sake of the street.
“That’s an individual consideration of the businesses, not necessarily as part of this project,” Mr Cantillon said.
“The goal was to improve the streetscaping. We’ve got a number of links on Howard Street, Alfred Street, Queen Street on the west side [of Mason Street], which have carried forward the original intent of the project. In the collective they improve the streetscape outcome, they improve the look and feel and opportunities for the businesses to grow as a result of that.”
You can click here to view a map of the draft revised plan (7.4MB). Additional changes may come.
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