SLOW DEATH ON QUEEN ST

Re­vealed: Coun­cil plan threat­ens small busi­nesses sur­vival

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Elisha Pearce

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.

Do you sup­port the Queen St busi­nesses?

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.

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