In Europe, North America and Australia, high street shopping precincts have all been impacted by shopping malls and rise of online retail. In NSW, successive Liberal and Labor State governments have not helped, with traffic planning that dominates all other needs, clearways that restrict on-street parking and traffic speeds that detract from the pedestrian experience of shoppers.
The expected negative impacts of Westconnex on Newtown’s King Street show the lack of regard the government has for these shopping precincts.
Fast-moving through-traffic is not the city’s lifeblood, and that’s why I’m proud to join local councils, businesses and residents to work around unresponsive State governments.
Woollahra Council’s Oxford Street taskforce and Activate Oxford Street have developed creative projects like the art markets and shopfront window displays. Local festivals like William Street and Fiveways Fusion add a new edge. The City of Sydney’s co-working and creative spaces have brought new people who support local businesses and bring new life to the street; the new cycle hub will do the same.
The City’s fabulous Paddington Reservoir Gardens have created a new village space. The City’s GLBT artwork and Art and About are helping renew public perception. Both councils are “greening” the space where possible; witness Three Saints Square greenery. These help to improve people’s experience of the street.
Energetic and passionate leaders at Paddington and Darlinghurst Business Partnerships are using council grants and good ideas to focus on small precincts, adding value to existing businesses. I’m backing them and their efforts, and I love shopping at their unique businesses.
The minister and department dismissed outright The Paddington Society and BIKEast’s proposal for remaking Oxford Street based on the successful Kensington High Street London, which faced the same problems. We will keep pushing for this.
I’ll also continue to push the government to lower traffic speeds, allow more parking on the strip, build light rail that would take noisy buses off the street and make retail leases more flexible. I’ve asked the Small Business Commissioner to intervene to help local businesses with red tape and perverse incentives that hurt start-ups and entrepreneurs.
It is time to talk up Oxford Street, Sydney, support those working on improvements and acknowledge recent progress that is diversifying business models.
Most importantly, if you’ve not been to Oxford Street lately, come back and visit us, you will be pleasantly surprised.