Amid dissent, councillors give green light to Camden Town Centre change

A view of Argyle Street which will be narrowed to allow the footpath widening. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale
A view of Argyle Street which will be narrowed to allow the footpath widening. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale

CAMDEN Council is forging ahead with plans to upgrade Camden's town centre despite a mixed reaction from the community on some of the key improvements.

Six of the nine councillors endorsed the improvements, which include a decked car park in front of the Camden Civic Centre and traffic and pedestrian lights, at the council's November 25 meeting.

Work will now begin on the detailed design work for the improvements.

The council received 587 submissions from the community and a report to the council meeting said more than 50 per cent of respondents supported the traffic lights, more than 60 per cent supported the decked car park and its location, and more than 50 per cent supported the plan to widen the footpaths and narrow the traffic lanes along Argyle Street.

The Oxley Street car park in front of Camden Civic Centre which will be the site of a new decked car park. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale

The Oxley Street car park in front of Camden Civic Centre which will be the site of a new decked car park. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale

"We went through a very lengthy and detailed consultation with the community," Cr Peter Sidgreaves said.

"By the results it is clear the whole community appears to have overwhelming support for the traffic signals and the pedestrian crossing [on Argyle Street across from Capitol Arcade]."

Cr Sidgreaves said the footpath widening and the repaving was "very important for safety but also to activate all the restaurants and cafes on Argyle Street".

However, Cr Greg Warren — who, along with councillors David Bligh and Eva Campbell voted against the upgrades — said he did not agree with the location of the $3.6 million decked car park.

"It's an exorbitant amount of money," he said.

"I would prefer to have [the parking needs] assessed after we leave Camden when we know what we're doing with [the Camden Council building]."

A standard letter lodged by several individual business people in the Camden town centre praised the council for the choice of car park location saying it was "the most logical location for this car park and it can't come soon enough".

The letter also approved the pedestrian and traffic signals and welcomed the footpath widening, the street furniture and new paving.

Several other individual submissions, as well as those made on Camden Council's Have Your Say form were concerned the changes would damage Camden's rural feel.

"Keep it historical," wrote one. "Don't sell out in a rush forwards because you won't go back, it will be lost."

There was also concern about potential traffic problems if the footpaths were widened and the traffic lanes narrowed.

"The current footpath is wide enough and the roadway will be too narrow," one person said.

"I don't want the driving lanes narrowed, it's tight enough already," wrote another respondent.

But others welcomed the prospect of wider footpaths: "I love eating at the cafes on the main street but sometimes it's a bit crowded and awkward sitting on a slope so close to pedestrian trying to get past," said one person.

The community will have more chances to comment on the specific improvements once the designs are completed and the individual works come back to the council.

Almost $2 million has already been transferred from the council's asset renewal and capital works reserves to pay for the design work.

The times are changing: The face of Camden’s town centre is set to receive a major overhaul. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale

The times are changing: The face of Camden’s town centre is set to receive a major overhaul. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale

What the submissions say:

On footpath widening/traffic lane narrowing: 

FOR

■ "It will increase the space available for pedestrian movement and at the same time allow more room for restaurants and cafes to naturally overflow out onto the footpath where so many of us love to sit."

■ "I support widening and levelling the footpaths on the main street. I love eating at the cafes on the main street but sometimes it's a bit crowded."

■ "I do not have a problem with the traffic lanes being reduced slightly if it will mean more space on either side of Argyle Street."

AGAINST

■ "We need wide footpaths and wide roads, could the middle island be narrowed?"

■ "The footpaths are wide enough and do not need to encroach on the main street. Cafes can limit outdoor seating and people can then more easily walk along the street."

■ "Road lane width reduction will occur in one section only — this will provide inconsistent and unclear driving conditions along Argyle Street — and possibly raise safety concerns."

On the car park:

FOR

■ "The Oxley Street site for a car park is very central for pedestrians. A car park here will not be visible from Argyle Street, thus protecting the town's best asset: our beautiful Argyle Street vista."

■ "The most sensible location is Oxley Street, not next to Woolworths as some proponents argue. We need to be able to cater to civic centre functions as well as day-to-day requirements."

■ "I would like to see at least two [decks]."

AGAINST

■ "With council going, police gone, court house moved elsewhere, more space will be available for parking anyway, so at the moment my answer would be no. What we do need is more longer term parking for tourist buses."

■ "A decked car park in Oxley Street is totally unnecessary and a complete waste of money."

■ "The space in Oxley Street could be better utilised as a public space as I see Camden in the future as a place for boutique shopping, restaurants, cafes, outdoor exhibits, entertainment and theatre."

On traffic lights:

FOR

■ ‘‘I would feel much safer if there were signals helping to stop the cars, as it really does feel like some drivers don’t see you or they are in a hurry and rush through the crossing.’’

■ ‘‘About time. Better late than never.’’

■ ‘‘It would be welcome to combat the traffic influx.’’

■ ‘‘Moving the zebra crossing to Oxley Street is a good idea. This would eliminate traffic back up through the roundabout at John Street.’’

■ ‘‘Traffic signals and pedestrian crossing on the corner of Argyle Street and Oxley Street ... will be absolutely vital and will fit perfectly in with the new car park site.’’

AGAINST

■ ‘‘Traffic lights in a town that wants to remain ‘country’. I don’t think it’s appropriate.’’

■ ‘‘The crossing should remain where it is, but add the signals.’’

■ ‘‘Most people use the existing crossing to access the post office and the newsagent opposite, so why put the signalised crossing further south? This will make the traffic a nightmare.’’

■ ‘‘The traffic lights will adversely affect the streetscape of Camden and detract from tourism potential.’’

■ ‘‘We do not need traffic signals ... What we do need is timed pedestrian signals at existing crossings.’’

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