CBD in a 'straightjacket'
WARWICK'S already-squeezed central business district will remain that way unless rules in the draft planning scheme for the region are reviewed, a leading development industry figure says.
Surveyor and planning consultant Gary Hayes yesterday pointed to the lack of vacant sites in the existing CBD - bounded by Albion, Percy and Guy Sts and Queens Park - and is calling for its expansion east of Albion St.
Mr Hayes said he was concerned that keeping the CBD as it was would more or less rule out any major new retail development in Warwick, with leading retailers not already in town likely to have Warwick in their sights over the next decade or so.
He said he believed the CBD, designated as the "Principal Centre Zone" in the draft scheme, should be extended east of Albion Street to take in the three blocks bounded by Percy, Canning and Albert streets, an area proposed to be designated as "Mixed Use".
"My concern is that while allowance has been made for the expansion of Warwick's residential and industrial zones, we have a CBD with a very high occupancy, but if anyone wanted to come in with a major new retail development there is no provision for that," Mr Hayes said.
"Retail players are going to come to town over the next 10 years or so and are going to find that development in the CBD has effectively been frozen, unless we review the boundary.
"We now have a CBD getting towards an 80 per cent occupancy rate and with a lot of heritage-listed buildings, so it is getting pretty tight and we also need to preserve the car-parking that's there now."
Mr Hayes acknowledged there was a residential component in the three blocks east of Albion St he proposes for a CBD expansion, but he said the area was already a mix of uses, with some of them better suited elsewhere.
"The Ergon depot is one example of this - it really should be out in the industrial estate," Mr Hayes said.
"The area it's in now is better suited to large retail and you would have fewer entrances out onto the highway."
Mr Hayes said he had lodged a submission on the planning scheme which also called for an easing of the rules on converting retail sites to professional office space, with a major demand for the latter.
Mayor Ron Bellingham conceded there was pressure on the CBD and said council would take a good look at the Hayes proposal as planning scheme submissions were sifted through.
"I am aware that immediately to the west of the existing area designated as the CBD you have Central School and other heritage sites and residences," the mayor said.
"So pushing the CBD out on that western side would create some issues, but if you look towards the east you would then have a CBD bisected by a national highway."