Mall to Main: Traffic to stay

STAWELL - Today marks ten years since two-way traffic returned to the Main Street of Stawell, that was on this day April 4, 2004.

As Northern Grampians Shire Council and Main Street businesses have had their say it is time for members of the community to have theirs.

Carmel Loats, a founding member of the 'Heart of Town' movement which was against the redevelopment remains as opposed to it now as she was then.

"I think everyone just loved the ambience, the atmosphere, the fact that we knew we had something different," she said.

"It was a lovely space for mothers and their children which we've now lost."

Mrs Loats believes businesses would have benefited more if they had been given the money invested into the redevelopment direct.

"The people of Stawell didn't want it removed, we presented a petition to council with about 6000 signatures against it," she said.

"I don't think it has done anything for traders, we've still got businesses closing down."

Former owner of Haymes Menswear, Keith Haymes admits opening the Main Street back up to traffic was inevitable with the Gold Reef Mall realistically unviable in the long term.

"I think it was safe to say that the Mall had outlived its usefulness," he said.

Mr Haymes said he doesn't necessarily agree that reopening the street has brought more people into shops, as he always believed shoppers were more concerned about the stock and service of the businesses rather than the access to them.

"It really is a bit of a double edged sword, but I think it has actually been okay," he said.

The town's main arterial was closed to traffic in the late 1970s in the wake of an incident where a young girl was hit by a reversing truck.

"Originally they wanted a Mall the majority of the Main Street, all the way to Patrick Street," Mr Haymes said.

That never eventuated and what the Gold Reef Mall people became familiar with, wasn't just defined by its pavement.

It is best remembered as a meeting place and for its children's playground, raised grass areas, trees and arguably most significantly its water fountain which still exists, but now sits in a council yard.

Suggestions have been raised that it be relocated to Cato Park, but council estimates its relocation and reinstallation would be too expensive.

A decade on it is safe to say whatever your view, the Main Street in its current form - open to traffic is here to stay.

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