Camden Council unveils its vision for a more vibrant CBD

All roads lead to Camden:  Camden Council’s Town Centre Vision report suggests several initiatives to attract more people to the CBD to help businesses prosper.
All roads lead to Camden: Camden Council’s Town Centre Vision report suggests several initiatives to attract more people to the CBD to help businesses prosper.

CAMDEN’S John Street could be transformed into a town square similar to Sydney’s Martin Place or Melbourne’s Federation Square under Camden Council’s new “visionary” plan.

And plans are also being considered to make better use of hidden “pockets” in the CBD, improved public transport services, relocating Camden’s tourist information centre and trialling longer retail hours.

The majority of councillors last week adopted the Camden Town Centre Vision, a report described as a “guide for the evolution of the town centre”.

The initiatives suggested in the report aim to attract more visitors to Camden, revitalise the town, and help businesses to prosper, the report said.

The initiatives include:

■ Longer trading hours on weekends and a trial of longer opening hours on weeknights at key shopping periods like Christmas.

■ More frequent bus services.

■ Marketing Camden as a highly desirable tourist destination and relocating the tourist information centre or establishing a complementary centre in the heart of the CBD.

■ “Reinvigorating” forgotten and underused spaces like the park next to Camden Court, the entrance to the showground and arcades and laneways along Argyle Street to make them attractive.

■ A new town square in John Street as a gathering place that would be closed to traffic for special events, markets and could also be used as an outdoor cinema location.

A further report on how to fund and implement the ideas will go to the council next month. Most of the initiatives could be delivered in two years, the report said.

Councillor Eva Campbell, who was the only councillor not to support the report last week, said it wasn’t “visionary”.

“The statements in the report are terribly generalised, essentially academic and seemingly purely focused on current planning trends,” she said.

“To compare Martin Place in Sydney to Camden is laughable. It’s fashionable now to have town squares but the notion that we have a gathering place and that constitutes a community is equally laughable.’’

Mayor Lara Symkowiak said the initiatives aimed to attract more people to Camden and revitalise the town centre so that businesses could thrive.

Other initiatives in the report are already underway including a decked car park on Oxley Street, wider footpaths on Argyle Street and traffic lights.

The report said council has sought input from the community and stakeholders to develop its vision which resulted in 500 submissions and 3000 individual comments.

‘‘I am extremely pleased that Council has adopted such an exciting and important vision for the future of Camden’s Town Centre. Camden is one of the fastest growing areas in NSW and doing nothing to protect and strengthen Camden’s Town Centre for the future is not an option,’’ Cr Symkowiak said.

‘‘The vision endorsed by council is not one of radical change, rather it is a blueprint to guide the future of the town centre in a gradual and measured way.

‘‘Council has adopted a range of realistic strategies and initiatives for to achieve the vision for our town centre, a vision that was developed in consultation with our community.

‘‘The intent of the vision is to protect Camden’s existing values and distinct character, while at the same time facilitating appropriate change and growth.

‘‘Council is committed to keeping the community informed throughout the process and will implement a communications strategy to do so.

‘‘Council is committed to marketing Camden as a tourism destination and a key place to do business. The Camden town centre will be a strong focus for a range of tourism and economic development initiatives and opportunities.

‘‘Council will drive the implementation of the initiatives, including the appointment of a town centre co-ordinator.

‘‘We have an opportunity to enhance Camden’s Town Centre and this is exactly what the vision and initiatives are all about. I am proud of this.’’

■ Councillor Eva Campbell hopes to reignite debate on the community’s opposition to council’s town centre improvement works when she moves a notice of motion at the April 28 council meeting. The motion calls on the council to implement a moratorium on its CBD works and consult with the community, Camden Chamber of Commerce and the Camden Community Alliance. To be debated, another councillor must second Cr Campbell’s motion. She said it was important council recognise “that ploughing ahead with something in the face of increasing opposition has the potential to do irreparable harm to the community let alone the CBD’’.