By Nathan Johnston
THE main benefit of Leongatha’s heavy vehicle town centre bypass will be the reinvigorated Bair Street, with more parking, greenery and public spaces.
The bypass is set to be completed within 12 months, and work on a new Bair Street, worth “millions”, will begin soon after.
While traffic problems will be moved elsewhere, the South Gippsland Shire Council will be ready to commence work as soon as the traffic is diverted, and VicRoads hands back control of Bair Street.
First though, the community will have a say in the designs.
Re-imagining Bair Street is the title of Leongatha Streetscape Masterplanning to guide road and footpath improvements, new landscaping, streetscape furniture and other upgrades.
To create the masterplan, the council wants to hear from the public about their vision for the street over the next 30 years.
An Ideas Plan has been prepared to illustrate some of the possibilities for the street.
“It is exciting to imagine how Leongatha will look over the coming years and in a generation from now,” said Paul Stampton, the council’s planning manager.
“We have a very rare opportunity to transform this important shopping and public precinct in the heart of Leongatha.”
The contract for the bypass will be out later this month.
Much of the electrical cabling work has already been completed.
“Hopefully by the end of next year the bypass will be finished, and then we can get Bair Street back as a council road.”
Mr Stampton said a priority would be to green up the street and make it more pedestrian-friendly.
Landscape architects and traffic engineers have been employed to provide the public with various options.
The same consultants designed the redevelopment of Bright and Myrtleford in the Alpine Shire.
All options involve a single lane of traffic in each direction. Presently there are two lanes each way.
• Option 1: A wide central park between the lanes (parallel parking to remain)
• Option 2: Angle parking, but still space for increased central greenery
• Option 3: Use parts of the road for public space (traffic would not be divided, but more public space at front of shops on one or both sides of the street).
The plans will involve a grand CBD entrance at the post office with street art and statues, and a clear rail trail entrance at the other end of Bair Street.
“We want to link the rail trail and the horticultural park. It’s a beautiful area but it’s not used to its full potential because of its accessibility.”
Improved vehicle safety at the Church Street and Young Street intersections will be incorporated and a plaza near Lyon Street could be included.
Mr Stampton said the project, whichever option is chosen, will be expensive.
“This does have council funding in the long term financial plan, and it will require the assistance of the State Government.
“The project will cost in the millions because of the changes to kerbing, intersections, street furniture, landscaping and a complete reseal of the road in a surface to be determined.”
Mr Stampton said the goal would be to create a pedestrian friendly environment with traffic slowed significantly.
“It’s 50km/h at the moment and the council doesn’t set the speed limits, but through the designs, we want to bring the speed limit down.”
The Leongatha Chamber of Commerce has been briefed on the proposals and will formulate its response as part of the initial consultation period which is now underway, and will continue until December 18.
A street stall, manned by council staff, will be set up later this month to provide a glimpse of how the street could be transformed.
“The views and ideas of the community are needed to ensure the masterplan’s success,” Mr Stampton said.
“There is no need to book – just drop in, have a look at the various ideas and contribute some of your own.”
The stall will be in Lyon Street, just off Bair Street between Bair’s Hotel and Forage & Grind, from noon to 3pm on Friday, November 27 and then from 9am to noon on Saturday, November 28.
“The last time there was a chance to do something for the centre of Leongatha was at least 30 years ago.”
For more details, go to southgippsland.vic.gov.au/re-imaginingbairst or phone strategic planner Chantal Lenthall on 5662 9800.