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Norwood traders threaten legal action over council bid to ban right-hand turns

Local

A long-running dispute over a decision to ban right-hand turns at a busy Norwood Parade intersection could go before the Supreme Court, with opponents representing two of the retail strip’s biggest shopping centres threatening the Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council with legal action.

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Australasian Property Developments, which is overseeing a $110 million revamp of Coles Norwood, and Rino Pancione of LJ Hooker St Peters and Parkade, which manages tenancies at the opposite Norwood Place shopping centre, are considering launching a judicial review in the Supreme Court to challenge the council’s decision to implement right-turn bans at the George Street and Parade intersection.

It follows a council decision in December to introduce a scramble crossing and ban right-hand turns for east and westbound traffic during peak periods at the Town Hall and Hoyts Cinema juncture.

The scramble crossing – which stops traffic from all directions and allows pedestrians to cross diagonally – is estimated to cost approximately $112,000 and will be co-funded by the council and Department for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI).

According to a council report published in December, the proposed changes, which are being undertaken as part of a Norwood Parade masterplan, would improve pedestrian safety and introduce a more “efficient signal cycle for vehicular movements”.

But Pancione and Australasian Property Developments, who say they represent the interests of more than 50 Norwood traders including Coles and Foodland, argue the right-turn bans would “significantly and detrimentally” impact traders and residents in the area by making parking more difficult.

They are calling on the council to instead remove a section of the median strip and install dedicated right-turn slip-lanes at a cost they estimate to be in the order of $250,000 and to which they are willing to contribute funding.

Documents released under Freedom of Information and seen by InDaily show DPTI wrote to the Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council in August 2018 stating its “preferred option” was to build short right-turn lanes as well as a scramble crossing.

In a separate email sent in December 2018, DPTI’s traffic operations manager Judith Formston said a scramble crossing alone would lead to “increased delays” for all road users, including pedestrians.

The email goes on to state DPTI “acknowledged” that the council did not support introducing dedicated right-turn lanes.

“As such, an alternate outcome of introducing a peak period ‘no right turn’ on both The Parade approaches together with the scramble crossing option is a compromise that both the Department and Council are open to further consider,” Formston wrote.

Lawyer Tom Game of Botten Levinson, who represents Pancione and Australasian Property Developments, told InDaily the council “appears to have dismissed the advice of the Department and has seemingly refused to consider the preferred option of the Department and traders”.

“Traders on both sides of the road are united in their concerns and have joined forces to challenge the council’s decision to ban right turns,” he said.

“My clients support the scramble crossing. That is not in issue.

“We are concerned that blocking right turn movements at the intersection will have flow-on safety, congestion and access impacts as traffic is diverted elsewhere within the local road network.”

In a letter sent the council’s CEO earlier this month and seen by InDaily, Game wrote that the council had also “failed” to conduct appropriate community consultation in relation to the proposed right-hand turn bans.

“We seek that the Council refrain from undertaking the intersection works introducing the proposed ban unless and until appropriate community consultation occurs and all relevant information is provided to elected members,” he said.

“Our clients will, if necessary, commence legal proceedings challenging the decision to undertake the intersection works and restrict right hand turns.”

In a statement, Norwood Payneham & St Peters governance and community affairs general manager Lisa Mara said the council was not aware of any court action being taken by the owners of Foodland Norwood.

She said any court action would lead to delays in the construction of the scramble crossing, “which has been strongly supported by The Parade traders and the community and importantly, has been designed to increase the safety for pedestrians and cyclists and in turn, improve vehicular flows at the intersection”.

Norwood Payneham & St Peters Mayor Robert Bria also denied that the council had dismissed DPTI’s advice or that ratepayers did not support the proposed right-turn bans.

He said the council considered six options for the intersection, with a traffic management report concluding that right-turn bans at peak times were a favourable outcome.

“Council made its decision, the State Government supports it, so here we are,” he said.

“The reason why the council didn’t go for the dedicated lane option, or filtered lanes, is because in terms of the level of service… with regards to traffic build-up and waiting times and all of those other things that need to be taken into consideration with the scramble crossing, (is because) right-hand lanes would perform the worst.

“Why would council go for an option that was worst-performing in terms of level of service and one that DPTI does not support?”

Bria said it was “not common practice” to do public consultations on “detailed design of masterplans”.

He said there were three rounds of consultation on the masterplan and “all the information regarding the reports, the traffic surveys were considered at a public meeting… so these aren’t confidential secret reports that the council considered behind closed doors”.

The long-term Mayor added that he had not heard of any Parade traders opposing the scramble crossing.

“It’s now been three and half years since the scramble crossing was proposed by the council and I think the community wants increased safety at that intersection for pedestrians and cyclists and vehicular flows,” he said.

“The Norwood Parade Precinct Committee are supportive of it, the Executive Committee of the Norwood Residents’ Association supports the trial.”

Mario Boscaini, whose family owns the Parade Central complex where Hoyts Cinema is located, said he was “eagerly awaiting” the introduction of the right-turn bans, describing the current intersection as a “nightmare” at peak times.

“I’m absolutely furious at hearing there are still people in the community that are still against this,” he said.

“It has been approved by DPTI and it’s gone through community consultation, so it’s gone through the ringer in terms of the approval process.

“We are at the point where we need to get on with it.”

The council will monitor the scramble crossing and right-turn bans for 12 months before implementing any permanent changes.

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