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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

The Mercato mess

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I would like to expand upon one aspect of Ian Cohen’s excellent article of the disturbing developments in our Council and town:

In this case the Mercato development, the entry to which is so compromised in design and execution that it presents a dangerous and confused public place that is in effect a snub to the Byron community.

Why in the first instance would the developers not see fit to relocate the fire-hydrant block at the entrance to some more appropriate position so that pedestrians and cyclists do not risk collision simply negotiating around the obstacle? A more people-friendly solution may have cost the developers a little more in build cost or potential retail frontage but what are their priorities when building a substantial public edifice in the centre of town?

Compounding the access problem is what appears to be a busking stage wrapping the hydrant block that is the last place most budding street musicians would want to play? Buskers work the street, not the stage; they are an incidental enjoyment and discovery, not a predetermined showcase. The stage looks mostly empty and sad and again blocks all easy pedestrian flow into the complex.

The forecourt and entry to Woolies is now stuffed further with retail boxes creating more congestion and distraction but perhaps more mindless consumerism. A development of such scale needs to breathe; it needs a generous entry statement to create the occasion and celebrate the building. This entry simply fails to inspire and rather drags down the whole Feng Shui for the edifice and its tenants. Add to this the vehicle-traffic chaos across the entry plaza and you have probably the worst urban planning failure in modern times.

Blame for this atrocity has to land firmly at the feet of former Council general manager Ken Gainger. Ken resolutely refused recommendations for a town bypass and service road in the rail corridor that could have serviced the Mercato development from the rear side. This sensible traffic management was pointed out to him and the developers but to no avail. Instead Ken refused all negotiations and removed the bypass from the masterplan process that ironically set out to achieve a more pedestrian- and people friendly town centre.


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1 COMMENT

  1. The blame does not lie with the General Manager of the day. Simon as Mayor, fully supported this development whilst we (the conservatives) were against it. I always felt (as an ex business owner) that this development would change the nature of the way people shop in Byron. I argued that the small strip shops would suffer a big loss of business, and that Byron would not be the same. I argued that people would park in the centre, shop, have coffee, check out other shops in the centre, get in their cars and go home. However, I witnessed the Mayor giving suggestions to the developer prior to council even being advised of the proposal, and I was horrified that he was even suggesting and designs that met with his approval. I suggested to Ken Gainger at the time that the meeting was inappropriate, and that I felt very uncomfortable (It happened during the first year of the last term I was there and I was Deputy Mayor at the time)

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