CBD plan focuses on city renewal

CONCERN: Wallsend Town Business Association chairman Max McCorkell says “someone’s lost the plot somewhere”. CONCERN: Wallsend Town Business Association chairman Max McCorkell says “someone’s lost the plot somewhere”.

PLANS to revive Newcastle’s ailing CBD include a proposal to limit the expansion of suburban retail, prompting fears from business owners about the impact on vibrant local shopping precincts.

The state government’s Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy says the city should “limit the expansion of out-of-centre retail that will compete with the city centre”.

Retailers in areas like Beaumont Street at Hamilton, Nelson Street at Wallsend and Maitland Road at Mayfield are worried that the suburbs could suffer from any efforts to divert shoppers to the CBD.

Max McCorkell, a small business owner and the chairman of the Wallsend Town Business Association, said the urban renewal plans were typical of the attitude towards Newcastle’s western suburbs.

“Someone’s lost the plot somewhere,” Mr McCorkell said. “We’ve got to look after where people live, not where people are moving to.”

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery also questioned the government’s intentions.

“What will it mean to people who live in [areas] like Wallsend, Shortland and Jesmond, particularly those who don’t have access to good public transport?” Ms Hornery said.

“Many people in the western suburbs don’t go to the city.”

George Yannis, the president of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said Hamilton had all the amenities of a city centre.

“What Hunter Street used to be is what we have here now,” he said.

“There’s no reason for people to shop in town, especially if they’re going to get slugged with the parking meters.

We could do a lot of things if we had one quarter of the money they put into the mall.”

Other key economic initiatives detailed in the state strategy include appointing a local business coordinator and developing a business improvement plan for the CBD, which has effectively already been done through Newcastle Now.

The strategy says the east end should be promoted as a boutique retail destination, Hunter Street could become an “eat street” with extended evening hours, and Honeysuckle would be the preferred location for A-grade office space.

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