Plans for a “focal point” town square for residents and tourists in the Blackheath village master plan were warmly welcomed by local residents at the recent council meeting on May 2.
The town square is proposed for the Victory Theatre/New Ivanhoe hotel carpark off Govetts Leap Road. The land is not council-owned and long-time resident Hilary Hughes, who spoke at the meeting, asked council to “come to some sort of arrangement” for the purchase from the landowners.
“What Blackheath needs is some kind of focal point, a proposed town centre, adjacent to the lovely Jenny Kee mural and close to the Victory Theatre… It can only benefit businesses in the area,” Ms Hughes said.
The plan is a revised version of the original presented to a meeting last July. That plan envisaged closing the Govetts Leap Road entrance to the car park to create the town square “subject to adjacent landholder participation”. But the landholders were not happy with council’s offer to lease land which they need not only for customer parking but also for vital deliveries.
The first draft was quickly withdrawn and re-drawn. Under the new plans, a garden bed, light pole and concrete kerbs would be removed to ensure vehicle access to the pub and the Victory.
The Blackheath Chamber of Commerce, generally in favour of a town square idea, is still concerned about delivery access for business and also that traffic would be funnelled into the parking area via the narrow Sutton Lane.
George Vergotis, the chamber’s president, told the meeting: “We feel that maybe a couple of town squares could be done … maybe between the toilets on the Ivanhoe side and maybe in front of the old post office.
“The social and economic benefits of a town square will be great but we can’t do it at the cost of business and it could really stymie the traffic movements in Blackheath as they currently are,” he said.
The square would also remove 16 parking spaces. To replace them, the draft considered three options: Buying vacant land further down Govetts Leap Road (estimated cost $1.15 million), building a multi-storey car park behind the highway shops on the south side of Sutton Lane ($1.6m), or introducing angle parking in Wentworth Street, which would be made one-way from Govetts Leap Road to Hat Hill Road ($60,000).
Mr Vergotis had issues about the parking, rejecting the cheapest option (Wentworth Street) in favour of the $1.15 million plan to buy land at 47 Govetts Leap Road.
He said making Wentworth Street one-way would force residents on the north side of town on to the highway to get to the shops or school.
“Blackheath years ago had land set aside with the intention to create parking,” Mr Vergotis said. “Over the years a couple of parcels of land were sold off to fund other projects in the Mountains. The time now is Blackheath’s turn. We are at breaking point with our parking.
“Tourism is booming in the Mountains. Option one [purchasing the land in Govetts Leap Road] is the preferred option.”
The plan will now be exhibited at local libraries and at Blackheath Neighbourhood Centre until June 21. It is also online at http://www.bluemountainshaveyoursay.com.au/blackheathmp-community. Submissions close July 2.