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Lords Place business owners left "traumatised" by "arrogant" council staff: Kinghorne

October 4, 2023

By David Fitzsimons

Orange City Council staff have been accused of arrogance in their dealings with Lords Place businesses before the controversial revamp of the street was started.

In a heated debate at council on Tuesday night, council backflipped on the project and agreed to rip up the expensive redevelopment.

Councillor Frances Kinghorne said business owners in the street told her their opposition and fears about the changes expressed in pre-work meetings had been ignored.

“Every single person I spoke to about those meetings has said that they found the staff to be arrogant and that they felt that anything negative they said at those meetings was not minuted,” she said.

“I think that’s appalling if that’s true. I think that needs to be investigated. Some of the business owners were absolutely traumatised.”

Councillor Jeff Whitton said “people power has spoken” before the landslide 9-2 vote to rip up the controversial Lords Place South was taken.

The public gallery was packed with local business people and several spoke against the project in the council’s open forum.

Dining decks and pot plants will be lifted and trucked back to the Orange City Council depot for possible redeployment elsewhere, the street painting will be removed and at least 20 of the 23 former car parking spaces lost in the redevelopment will be reinstated.

Whitton told Tuesday night’s meeting the scheme had failed and businesses on the strip were hurting because of the council’s action.

Some had been forced to close, with the Hog’s Breath restaurant CEO saying the work had cost its franchisee $350,000.

Whitton said car parking was vital to businesses and said shoppers should be able to park out the front of a shop if they wanted to.

“Basically we’ve shut down the street, we’ve stopped businesses,” he said. "At least give them back those car spaces, give them back. They don’t need those pods (dining decks) - no one uses them.

“If you did your research you would know the reason the businesses don’t use them. Commercially they can’t, their insurances won’t allow them too. They knew that before we even put those there, and why did we keep going?”

Councillor Kevin Duffy said the project “never had public support”.

He said while the project was a trial there were problems with the planning process including the removal of mature trees.

“If it was a trial why would you chop down established trees that gave our shops shade, that gave parking shade?” he said.

“It’s like going to the doctor's and he says ‘I’ll chop your legs off, but it’s only a trial’. They’re not coming back.”

Councillor Tammy Greenhalgh said council had made mistakes.

“We have to listen to the community. I’m going to own it, we made the wrong decision,” she said.

Councillor Tony Mileto called for the retention of two dining decks outside the Crema and Nimrods cafes to provide rest stops for elderly people walking down Lords Place.

That will be investigated as part of the staff report into the removal of the street furniture.

Councillor Glenn Floyd said he originally supported the project but was concerned there had not been any progress on extending the Ophir car park to cover for the losses in Lords Place south.

He said he agreed with a businessman who said the street looked “tacky”.

“I believe the design principle was fundamentally sound but it was just in the wrong place.”

Councillor Jack Evans said changes had to be made.

“It can’t stay the same. To let it sit as it is would be irresponsible,” he said.

Councillors David Mallard and Melanie McDonell voted against the removal, saying council needed to look to the future to create an area that would suit the city’s growing population.

Mallard said public transport and walking were part of that future.

McDonell said a growing population meant old ways could not continue.

“We are also required to look to the future. We can’t just assume we can just park out the front and get a rock star car parking space everytime we want to visit a shop,” she said.

A staff report said the street furniture may be used elsewhere.

“Dining desks can be taken to the council depot or reused, shade structures etc can also be removed to the depot or reused, street surfaces can be reinstated, and line marking put back to reinstate carparks,” it said.

“Only the new trees will remain, planted using modern methods that will see them flourish in tree vaults which will protect footpaths and road surfaces for years to come.”

Earlier in the night a motion from the previous council meeting to arrange for school students and Indigenous artists to paint the street’s large pot plants was rescinded.

And a proposal to establish a working party between councillors and businesses was knocked back.

The backflip is the latest of several Future City plans to have been changed or abandoned, in some cases following public backlashes.

That includes a major revamp of Anson Street that would have seen mature trees chopped down and the introduction of nose-in car parking instead of Orange’s traditional reverse angle parking.

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