Leongatha revamp


Leongatha revamp

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council is finally responding to persistent calls from the community to improve Leongatha’s central business district and reinvigorate the town’s commercial sector.

Council will tomorrow (Wednesday) discuss the proposed Leongatha Revitalisation Project that will encompass three individual projects to hasten progress in the town, including seeking a new use for the town’s overgrown rail yards many people believe have long been overlooked for commercial or public use.

The community is just hoping the project results in action, rather than talk, especially in the wake of numerous businesses closing in Leongatha and shops remaining empty.

Cr Jim Fawcett, a Leongatha businessman, said the revitalisation project could give the town’s commercial sector the boost it sorely needs.

“The project proposes to join the three essential parts of Leongatha’s streetscape: the Anderson Street town entrance, the Bair Street redevelopment and the consideration of VicTrack land at the old rail yards,” he said.

“The Leongatha Heavy Vehicle Alternative Route provides the impetus that Bair Street can become a shopping precinct rather than a highway. Anderson Street has significant commercial activity and it is the entrance to Leongatha.”

But the project stops short of capital works, for now.

Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Peter Watchorn said change has not come soon enough for the dilapidated rail yards.

“It has been neglected for the last 30 to 40 years and it has been making Leongatha go backwards for some time now. Something has to be done,” he said.

“We really need to get the ball rolling. We have wanted to see this changed for over a decade and council said it now wants to start planning, however it takes a long time to do so.

“It needs to be cleaned up and made presentable. It has the potential to be a great meeting spot or an alternative new beginning to the Great Southern Rail Trail.”

The rail yards will be the focal topic of conversation at the chamber’s next meeting on March 7, with business owners and stakeholders concerned about the town eyesore.

“We have been consulting with the South Gippsland Shire Council on the redevelopment project and that will be a major topic of discussion at our meeting,” Mr Watchorn said.

While council has held public consultations in relation to the Bair Street redevelopment, the rail yards behind Bair Street have long been a blemish on the Leongatha town.

But in the wake of the recent disbanding of the South Gippsland Tourist Railway, council has decided now is the time to redevelop the land.

“With the committee’s regrettable demise, we now have the opportunity to revisit how the land could be used to facilitate a new trading area in Leongatha. When we conducted public consultations with the community for the Bair Street redevelopment there was a great interest in redeveloping the rail yards,” Cr Fawcett said.

“Any redevelopment work will be done in conjunction with VicTrack. Part of this year’s budget is being deliberated for the rail yard redevelopment and it will primarily be up to council and VicTrack to decide what the land would be acceptable.”

Both the chamber and council have agreed the Bair Street redevelopment would not have been made possible without the completion of the Leongatha Heavy Vehicle Route, for which roadwork started this month.

“It is good to see dirt getting moved for the bypass. If the alternate route never happened we would not be able to get any work done on Bair Street. We are looking to build a customer friendly streetscape,” Mr Watchorn said.

Cr Fawcett agreed the bypass has been an integral first step for the Leongatha Revitalisation Project.

“It has been a long time coming for Leongatha and the wider community. The bypass is the key to making this possible and there would have not been much point working on Bair Street under the old road conditions,” he said.

“All three areas of the project are very important. Leongatha is a major provider of commerce, industrial manufacturing, education, medical services and retail. The more we can make Leongatha a destination for shopping the better.”

Rail yard rally: Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Peter Watchorn is adamant the rail yards behind Bair Street need to be redeveloped.

Rail yard rally: Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Peter Watchorn is adamant the rail yards behind Bair Street need to be redeveloped.

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Posted by on Feb 23 2016. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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