High St mall back on council agenda

The section of High St used for the Saturday market is to be
offered for use as a mall.

EXPRESSIONS of interest will be sought by the Derwent Valley Council for the use of part of New Norfolk’s High St as a mall.

Councillors last month agreed with a proposal from acting general manager Brian Barrett to test the market for activities between Burnett and Charles streets, for economic and social benefits, although one councillor said businesses in the area should be consulted first.

In a written report, Mr Barrett said the council was separately considering the future of the market held in that location every Saturday and he had noted that the 2017 council decision that authorised the market had the “broader intent” of establishing a temporary mall.

“Council does have an option to again test the market by way of EOI to identify if there are parties interested in activating the temporary mall in High St for any purpose and at any time,” Mr Barrett said in his report.

He proposed that councillors receive and note his report; authorise the start of an Expression of Interest process for the use of High St between Burnett and Charles streets as a mall on any day; and to receive a further report on the responses received from the EOI process.

Brian Barrett.

Moving the motion, Councillor Martyn Evans said it was great to see that the council wanted to consider continuing to close High St as a mall.

Cr Belcher said a proposal to use High St a mall had been presented to the council in 2017 by Cr Evans as mayor of the time. “It was knocked back and we proceeded to have a market in High St which has worked quite well but I don’t know if the acting general manager has done any work with the business community in the area because that’s who it affects the most,” Cr Belcher said.

He said the council was now talking about closing part of the street as a mall but it did not appear to have consulted with businesses in the affected area. Mayor Ben Shaw said the purpose of the motion, which was seconded by Cr Luke Browning, was to test councillor support for the continuation of the part-closure of the street.

“It was kind of discussed at a workshop to see if there’s actually any interest in us actually continuing to close it down for any reason,” Cr Shaw said. “So why not go and see if there are some interests out there? The next stage I believe … is, if there’s any [ideas] that the councillors would like to consider, that’s when you do the community consultation with the businesses before you make a decision to go to the next EOI.”

Cr Belcher said he would prefer that the council sought feedback from the High St business community “before we even talk about what we do about a mall or whatever. They will be the most effected, and if it is closed off for a mall and there’s no market, there could be nobody there,” he said.

“I just think it should have been brought up with the business owners first. A simple letter [saying] ‘this is coming to council and we want your input and what do you think?’. I think this would have been better if it had come to the businesses first and then we could have had their feedback about what they would like.”

Cr Natasha Woods said it might be possible to “reactivate” High St with multi-faceted ideas such as street festivals, weekly markets, arts and music events, and long-table food events, noting that such acivities could bring visitors to the town.

Cr Martyn Evans.
Closing the debate, Cr Evans said it would be necessary to clearly communicate the intent of the motion. The business owners might come together and have different thoughts so I think that’s that’s a good opportunity for them as well,” he said.
Deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove as operator of the Saturday market declared a potential pecuniary interest in the item and left the room while it was discussed. Councillors Julie Triffett and Luke Browning did not speak and Cr Frank Pearce was absent.
Later in the same meeting, councillors failed to deal with a report on the future of the High St Market for the second month in a row. The February meeting was left with insufficient numbers to deal with the agenda item after Cr Cosgrove declared a pecuniary interest in the agenda item, and at the March meeting it lapsed for want of a seconder. Cr Paul Belcher had sought to defer consideration of the report until he Expressions of Interest process was complete, but was advised the mayor and acting general manager to simply let the matter lay on the table.
“There is a consideration … to maybe just lay it on the table and not move and second it, and then it just comes back as part of something later, out of the EOI, if you want, but you can move to defer it,” Cr Shaw told Cr Belcher. “But if you defer it you need to discuss at another point and bring something back again. If it lays on the table, it sort of goes,” he said.
In his report to the February and March meetings the acting general manager was seeking approval to start an independent EOI process for the operation of the High St market, with Cr Cosgrove’s licence expiring on November 2.  Mr Barrett had recommended that the EOI process for the market be conducted transparently and independently of the council, to give alternative operators an opportunity to put forward their business proposals, adding that this approach had been discussed with the then director of local government to ensure it meets probity requirements. The decision to seek Expressions of Interest in operating a mall makes no reference to an independent process. 

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