Dreams and schemes from ideas tent inspire Bellingen plan

Bellingen school students congregate in the ideas tent to discuss innovations for the main street project.
Bellingen school students congregate in the ideas tent to discuss innovations for the main street project.

URBAN designer John Mongard has praised the community for suggestions raised in the Bellingen Main Street Study tent of ideas project.

"This was one of the most engaging and positive forums that our firm of landscape architects has been involved with in over 20 years of town place making and this reflects on Bellingen's engaged and educated community," he said.

The tent was open for 40 hours over a period of five days and included think tanks with local school children, resulting in a great snapshot of what walkers and bike riders really need in town.

Over 260 people brainstormed dreams and schemes.

Recurring themes were:

• New safe crossings near the cenotaph and near the post office are a high priority for both young and old - and relocating the central crossing at Church Street to improve safety and reduce congestion is universally agreed.

• A rainbow-coloured crossing was floated by the year 11 students and while not possible on Hyde Street, it may be able to integrate one into the 10km/hr shared zone on Church Street to allow a proper crossing point north to south, creating a distinctive Bello-styled walkway.

• More trees and more colour in the street were popular suggestions and these features could be integrated in traffic calming gardens in many areas that have too much bitumen, notably on Oak and Church Streets, and near the cenotaph.

• The cenotaph is a problem area for pedestrians and what has been labelled 'Bellingen freeform'; a place where vehicle drivers make unusual and interesting vehicle manoeuvres to find car parks and to move through town quickly. Bellingen freeform also applies to walkers, since it is commonly thought that the whole of the main street is a pedestrian crossing, and that people should be able to walk freely.

"If the town was not on a state road, then 'Bellingen freeform' would be safer," John said.

"In fact pedestrian oriented towns throughout the world have this free, slow and shared public space quality.

"Great towns of the world like Sienna and Freiburg feature freeform walkable centres."

Council general manager Liz Jeremy said the project has provided significant opportunities for improvements to the local amenity and safety along Hyde Street through the main commercial precinct of Bellingen CBD.

"Hyde Street is a main street and it needs to be civilised for cars, pedestrians and also bikes," she said.

"Providing a civil and people-centred town centre is one of the shared priorities for Bellingen residents and one of the emerging goals of the main street masterplan."

It's expected the draft concept plan will be finalised by the end of June and submitted to council shortly after.

A community Q&A forum will be held when the document is placed on public exhibition and before council adopts a final plan and progresses engineering designs in the 2015-16 financial year.

Topics:  bellingen shire council

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