Brunswick Heads residents have called on Byron Shire Council to re-allocate the funding for a controversial upgrade of the town’s main street to other more urgent works, such as improving public toilets some say are ‘embarrassing’ and in ‘third-world’ condition.
A meeting last night to debate council’s Tweed Street Master Plan, aimed at making the former highway more people and bicycle friendly, voted unanimously for ratepayer money to be spent instead on capital-works priorities for the town, including the repair of potholed roads and footpaths.
Many longtime locals at the meeting said they were alarmed that traffic volumes since the master plan was formulated years ago had at least doubled, and not taken into account in the local chamber-of-commerce driven plan.
Three of Australia’s biggest music festivals (Bluesfest, Splendour and Falls) are now held near the town and pump thousands of extra cars and visitors into Brunswick Heads.
Residents along Tweed Street told the meeting that narrowing the main street for central car parking and tree planting would make accessibility to their street ‘absolutely impossible’ and that it was already a ’nightmare’ for them trying to reverse out of their driveways.
Other locals agreed the plan was ‘out of date’ and ‘obsolete’ because of the big increase in traffic and that noise from slowing traffic down with speed bumps and roundabouts would also be a problem.
One local was applauded for telling the meeting the plan was ‘all about tourism’ but ‘residents should come first in this’.
The Tweed Street task force, made up of residents, businesses, community groups and Byron Council, which is undertaking detailed plans and costings for the staged works, recently told Echonetdaily that implementation of the the project is still years away.
The meeting was told council had already spent $18,000 on the project and allocated $60,000 for it.
Locals are concerned about safety and other issues as a result of narrowing Tweed Street (the old Pacific Highway) for central car parking and tree planting under the master plan for the project. (see http://www.echo.net.au/2015/11/narrowing-of-main-street-in-bruns-sparks-safety-fears/).
The master plan was approved by council in August 2010. Concept designs are available on the council website.
While many residents at the meeting supported the ‘beautification’ of Tweed Street with tree plantings, a bike path and parking areas along the roadside, they also believe it has serious design flaws which won’t improve safety.
The task force continues to pursue state and local funds towards the project, estimated to cost up to $5 million.
One local told the meeting that some of the design ideas for the project should be pursued, such as more installations reflecting the history of the town and better signage to direct visitors around the town.
But another local quipped that ‘it’s not that bloody hard’ and that it should not be about tourists’.
Another said the plan was drawn up by someone who did not live in the town and therefore would not know the issues locals faced.
‘Let’s fix the CBD, roadworks should come first,’ one said.
Another said ’this town does not want trees in the middle of the road or roundabouts’.
Lifelong resident Darcy O’Meara said council should stop wasting more money on consultation or surveys for the project.
Local Sarah Buchanan said ‘the amenities in this town are sub-standard, third-world and embarrassing’. (Some of the toilets are the responsibility of council, others the state government (Crown Lands).
‘We need a couple more new toilet blocks to cope, there are other more urgent priorities for this town and no more money should be spent on Tweed Street,’ she said.
One said a recent plan for expansion of the Bayside precinct south of the town and the town’s boat harbour re-development would also add many more homes and residents to the mix.
Another said the plan should embrace the whole of Tweed Street, from the fishermen’s co-op to Bayside.
Meeting co-ordinator, Brunswick Heads Progress Association president John Dunn, urged those at the meeting to talk to their neighbours and give council feedback on what they want.
Progress association treasurer Patricia Warren told the meeting that council’s capital works program should go on public exhibition around April, which was when locals could voice their opinion on where money should be spent in the town.