Geoff Helisma |
Since work commenced on the new IGA supermarket on July 16 – in what used to be Cameron Park and the Centenary Drive car park – a perceived lack of car parking has impacted on the trade of various businesses in Maclean.
Last week, the Independent reported that conditions of the development application’s consent included the management of construction traffic, construction workers vehicles and “how parking will still be available for the wider community during” construction, which is predicted to be completed by Easter 2019.
Over the past week, the Independent sought to establish how businesses have been affected – some have lost significant trade, others, not so much, and several have seen an improvement in trade since the initial week of construction.
Spar Maclean is arguably the business that has the largest number of customers, many of whom are regular, either weekly or on a day-to-day basis.
Proprietor Bob Little said his store has suffered a significant reduction in trade and customers numbers, when measured against the same period last year (see graphs).
Mr Little has made his feelings about the situation clear: “Already businesses in the CBD are experiencing a significant downturn in sales as a result of the carpark being closed and, no, this is not an exaggeration on their behalf.
“I have plenty of facts to support their claims if needed.
“This has the potential for significant job losses in this town, as this is not ‘short term pain’.
“It is just under 12 months of ‘agony’ for Maclean and that’s if IGA finish on time.”
During the 20 days (July 17 to August 5) after the construction area was fenced off, Mr Little’s business experienced 13 days where sales were down, whereas across the preceding months from May 1 there was a total of 15 days when sales were down.
Mr Little said this is clear evidence that the fluctuations during the 20-day period are significantly more than those that are usually experienced.
The store’s customer count is similar to the sales count, percentage-wise; however, on two days there were 100 fewer customers – and there were two days where customer numbers were down by 50.
The Independent spoke with several other business owners.
Maclean Variety Meats proprietor John Allen said his trade was “most definitely down, about 30 per cent”.
He said he had been frustrated when unsuccessfully trying to “get something from IGA” about managing parking in the town.
Adrian Sonter from Maclean Hot Bread & Cake Kitchen said over the counter trade had been up and down, but steadily improving as people adjusted.
However, he said his wholesale trade to other businesses in the CBD was down.
The Cottage Takeaway – The Back Shop’s proprietor, Anita Chen, said her trade was “very much” down.
She said her morning tea trade (9am to 10am) was the most affected.
“Each day a lot of workers complain they can’t park,” she said.
However, she was hoping “business picks up from workers at the site”, which is directly adjacent to her shop in the Palace Arcade.
She said that her trade had improved over past weeks, compared to when the fence went up, but “still not to previous levels”.
At the other end of the Palace Arcade on River Street, the River Cafe’s Alison Edsell said “our trade was severely down in the first two days; [however], I think people have sorted out where they’re going to park – we’ve actually picked up”.
Meanwhile, on Monday night (after the Independent’s editorial deadline), Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, and development engineer, Nigel Sutton, spoke at the Maclean Chamber of Commerce meeting.
“This will concern extra parking options, well marked and safe pedestrian travel from the Argyle Street Carpark to the [Palace] Arcade East entrance and a well defined and safe walkway down Argyle Street to River Street,” the chamber’ meeting agenda noted.
“The conversation needs to include proposed ideas for shared service access in Munro lane and how that could be adopted in the increasing commercial section of Centenary Drive as the new Supermarket comes on stream.”