Nasty shock for High St traders

Click or flick across for maps showing the proposed realignment. 

IRATE High Street traders have criticised Wodonga Council for its lack of consultation, saying they weren’t made aware of plans to partly close the street for roadworks.

Businesses along the northern section of High Street banded together yesterday to voice their anger at news the street would be closed between Bond Street and Elgin Boulevard for three months from mid-January, as the boulevard’s realignment works get begin.

They say they weren’t notified about a community consultation last month — in which the council said the “overwhelming majority” of about 100 attendees opted for the three-month closure over six months of works — and that it will severely affect their businesses.

But the council says it dropped flyers about the meeting to each business, and that it plans to run an ongoing “shop local” advertising campaign to encourage shoppers.

Council’s director of planning Leon Schultz visited businesses in the precinct yesterday to explain the council’s plans and position to traders, including Cathy Upton, owner of Julia’s Fabric Boutique.

Mrs Upton, who has had her store for 10 years, said she had no idea the closure was on the cards until reading it in yesterday’s Border Mail.

“Obviously it has got to happen, we have no argument with that, but we’ve been told nothing,” she said.

Neighbour Leeanne Worthington, owner of J&M Clothing for 14 years, echoed Mrs Upton’s thoughts, saying she too had concerns about the loss of trade due to the lack of parking and re-routing of traffic around High Street.

The all-day car park at Bond Street had already been closed some weeks ago — also without notification — and street parking was hard to come by, she said.

“If 100 people support it, it must have been at the southern end because it’s not at this end,” she said.

Both questioned why notification wasn’t sent directly to business owners, instead of relying on media, and why contingency plans hadn’t been made earlier.

Across the street, Rex McKay of The Butcher’s Hook and Cleaver said he attended the consultation meeting but only because a friend sent him a text message telling him it was on.

“Someone there said ‘it’s only three months’, but three months to some of these businesses will finish them I reckon,” he said.

Mr Schutlz said flyers about the meeting had been delivered to each business and that the meeting was advertised via The Border Mail, social media and on the council’s website.

However, he said the council would take on board feedback that businesses preferred to be contacted by letter.

“The realignment has been mentioned in the public arena for more than five years, discussed at council meetings, included in the council plan and this year’s budget so council has been actively talking about it for a long time,” he said.

Mr Schutlz said additional all-day parking had been provided in Elgin Boulevard next to Richardson Park and opposite the court house, and that works in Bond Street were due to finish in the next fortnight, which would reopen car parking there.

Asked whether the council would consider discounting businesses’ rates during the affected period, Mr Schutlz said: “Rates are not dependent on trade of a business but rather, based on commercial land and building values.”

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