Park closure criticised
By PETER CATON
MURWILLUMBAH businesses are upset by council plans to close down the town centre's main car park just days before the Speed on Tweed festival brings an expected 25,000 people to town.
They say Tweed Shire Council should have held off on the closure for reconstruction work for a few more days and given the business community more specific warning.
A spokesperson yesterday confirmed council is closing the car park adjacent to the Murwillumbah Swimming Complex for construction of the long-awaited new swimming complex and a three-level car park.
Parts of the car park are to be closed this week for the removal of some trees and the entire car park is to be fenced off on Monday.
Speed on Tweed has begun revving up for its big weekend from Friday week. Last year it attracted 25,000 visitors.
Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce president Phil Youngblutt said the untimely closure of the car park was typical of council management, and he had tried to arrange a meeting after hearing of concerns earlier this week.
"We would like a meeting to see what contingency plans have been made," he said.
"But the last time I spoke to the Council there had not been any plans made at all. I have my ideas but I want to talk to Council about them.
"The last time I put up a proposal for a bus running from the perimeter parking areas it was knocked down."
Proprietor of the Fish Bowl cafe and seafood store Denise van Bael, whose shop is close to the car park, said she still expected to be busy during Speed on Tweed but the closure would affect many people.
"To me it is bad timing. They are going to need the extra parking," she said.
Late yesterday a council spokesperson said a perimeter fence would be erected around the car park on Monday with approximately 80 car spaces temporarily closed off from the public for safety reasons. "Of these council would lose about 50 per cent, with the other 50 percent being lost to business, shoppers and visitors. Council have put in place a parking strategy for staff, including parking on the south side of Murwillumbah at the railway station and walking to work from there.
This was agreed between the Chamber of Commerce and council some months ago," the spokesperson said.
Some car parks surrounding the cenotaph will remain but will be converted to two hour parking to assist business by preventing council staff and contractors all day parking.
Every business that backs onto the car park will be visited by Tweed Council Officers this week to explain the situation.
One person not complaining is Speed on Tweed director Roger Ealand, who yesterday simply said: "I knew it was happening some time, but life has got to go on.'
"They have their work to do. We have our festival,' he said. "But I'm not the complaining sort."
Mr Ealand said Murwillumbah motels had been booked out for the event a year ago and if the weather was fine he was hoping for "slightly more" than 25,000 visitors this year.