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CBD outdoor dining furniture 'may protect against terrorist attack'

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The Adelaide City Council is considering a long-term plan to get rid of outdoor dining furniture that is fixed to the footpath, but one councillor argues fixed furniture may help protect South Australians from future terrorist attacks in the CBD.

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The council is preparing to vote on a plan to remove fixed furniture from outdoor dining areas on public land in favour of removable furniture.

But area councillor Natasha Malani told last night’s council committee meeting fixed furniture may help protect patrons from terrorist attacks.

“If you look at what’s happening in the world, it might be fixed items and fixed furniture [that] is going to protect people,” she said.

Malani told InDaily this morning that “potentially, some fixed [furniture] is going to protect people”.

She said outdoor dining furniture pinned to the ground might act as a deterrent for terrorists considering vehicle-based attacks on civilians in Adelaide.

Malani added that cement planter boxes might also offer further protection.

“We have to start thinking about these things,” she said.

“It certainly doesn’t mean our whole street should be lined with planter boxes.

“I’m not an expert, by the way.”

Earlier this year, the city council installed bollards at entrances to Rundle Mall after a speeding car ploughed through pedestrians in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD.

SA Police told InDaily late yesterday afternoon that it: “supports the installation of measures to protect pedestrians from accidental or malicious misuse of vehicles.”

“Whilst a variety of treatments are available, SAPOL does not provide specific recommendations, but encourages the engagement of security specialists and where appropriate engineers.”

Under a transition plan proposed by the Adelaide City Council’s administration – to be debated at a council meeting next week – businesses with fixed furniture would be charged an extra $15 per square metre in outdoor dining fees.

That’s on top of a $5 per square metre outdoor dining fee, due to be reinstated next month – after a yearlong trial of zero outdoor dining fees.

Area councillor Sandy Wilkinson told InDaily it was appropriate for the council to charge more for fixed furniture, because outdoor dining fees were already at a “90 per cent discount” from what they should be.

Wilkinson said “orphaned” tables outside cafés were an “eyesore” and higher fees could be justified by the higher cost to ratepayers of cleaning footpaths that feature fixed dining furniture.

“What doesn’t contribute [positively] to the look of a city is orphaned tables with no chairs around them,” he said.

“That’s not a good look.”

He said he did not have a problem with fixed benches, or fixed planter boxes, but the tables looked ugly.

Under current council policy, businesses are required to remove fixed furniture and reinstate the footpath, at their cost, when the business transfers ownership or closes down.

But the extra fee proposal but appears unlikely to gain support, because a previous council policy endorsed the use of fixed furniture, and few councillors are willing to charge businesses to transition to the new scheme.

Ian Horne from the Australian Hotels Association said there was no need to get rid of fixed outdoor dining furniture in Adelaide, and any such policy would be “anti-business”.

“We’re yet to be convinced … what the problem [with fixed furniture] is,” he said.

“We’ve yet to [hear] any rational argument … and we’re not aware of any complaints [regarding fixed furniture].

“It’s almost like they have got nothing else to do so they think up these ideas on how to inconvenience small business.”

A spokesperson for the council’s administration told InDaily in a statement this morning that “Research has shown that non-fixed outdoor furniture is best practice in many contemporary cities”.

“When a business is closed, fixed furniture is unattractive, limits the use of the footpath and makes the city look empty and deserted,” the spokesperson said.

“It can also attract people to loiter, causing disturbances to any residents nearby and creating an unsafe feeling to the area.

“While [the] council maintains a strong commitment to move towards the principle of removable outdoor dining furniture across the City of Adelaide, it wishes to continue its ongoing support of hospitality businesses and desires minimal burden on those who had applications approved under the previous policy.”

The spokesperson added that the “administration will continue to work closely with businesses owners to support outdoor dining”.

Approximately one in 10 businesses change hands or close each year in the CBD.

In total, 143 businesses in the city have outdoor dining furniture fixed to the footpath.

According to the council’s administration, the total cost to remove all fixed furniture from outside those businesses would be $370,000.

A report to the council in February revealed that the trial of zero outdoor dining fees had failed to entice city restaurants outdoors.

The report said that since the trial began mid-last year, the policy had cost ratepayers around $200,000 and fewer businesses applied for outdoor dining permits during the fee-free period than had done so when businesses had to pay.

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