SLOW DEATH ON QUEEN ST
Revealed: Council plan threatens small businesses survival
ST MARYS small business owners are fearing the worst after Penrith Council voted to reclassify St Marys public land for possible development.
Shopkeepers say the council has ignored warnings of a potential and devastating business downturn of more than 20 per cent if an expanded shopping centre was built.
A 2013 economic report found Queen St businesses would lose 21 per cent of their turnover and take 14 years to recover.
BUSINESSES have panned Penrith Council’s decision to reclassify St Marys public land for possible development, saying warnings of potential business downturn of more than 20 per cent if an expanded shopping centre was built have been ignored.
The council decision to reclassify public land – currently Kokoda and Lang parks – to allow development has Queen St business owners worried. They say the community was not properly consulted.
While the council has emphasised there are no specific plans for the land yet – a committee will make decisions about it and scrutinise any potential sale – small business people said they would be overwhelmed by a larger shopping centre.
A 2013 economic report considered the impact of a larger shopping centre in St Marys. It stated Queen St businesses would lose 21 per cent of their turnover and take 14 years to recover – a death knell for many small business operators.
Party Pit Stop owner Alex Karavas said every business that read the report was upset at the council decision.
Asked if he could hold on for 14 years waiting for revenues to return to normal, Mr Karavas, who is chairman of the St Marys Town Centre, just laughed.
“I’ll ask you and you put a figure on it – can I take 21 per cent out of your pay? How are you going to survive?” he said.
Business owners said the community had not been consulted by council officers about the reclassification – a direct order in a previous council meeting – so they could not understand why councillors voted to make the change.
Untamed Flowers owner Alex Borg said the council meeting was a “waste of time” and the people who spoke on behalf of Queen St businesses “wasted their time”.
“Council didn’t listen or take anything into consideration,” she said.
“I think council went into that meeting already knowing the outcome. It was a quick raising of hands, that sort of thing.
“No one on the street is just scared for their own business, we’re all worried about the others.
“It’s a community. It’s always been a shopping street.”
Jamjo Home And Gifts owner Joanne Tomic also thought the “decision had already been made” before asking the public.
“It happened too quickly — there wasn’t any consultation,’’ she said.
In December, the council deferred a decision to engage in consultation and councillors were upset none had occured. A council business paper said a proposal was put on exhibition in August and September and an independently chaired public meeting was held on October 21, attended by 35 people.
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Can I take 21 per cent out of your pay? How are you going to survive? Alex Karavas
Queen St business owners Alex Karavas and (inset) Alex Borg are upset at Penrith Council’s decision to reclassify public land in St Marys town centre.