Report on Draft Approvals Policy - Use of Road Reserves & Public Land for Commercial, Community & Charitable Activities

Attachment 2

5623/2009 - minutes of a meeting of the working group to address use of  road reserves and public land for commercial and charitable activities held 26 February 2009







Ken McKelvie (Bowraville Chamber of Commerce), Dorothy Secomb (Chairperson NSC Access Committee), Jenny Croaker (Guide Dogs), Coral Hutchinson (NSC Manager Community and Cultural Services), Bruce Redman (NSC Director Engineering Services), Arthur Tsembis (NSC Manager Planning), Greg Meyers (NSC Director Environment and Planning), Mark Spry (NSC Safety and Risk Officer)




Mr Tsembis provided a brief overview of the purpose of the meeting and acknowledging that people will have different views, the aim is to come to some agreement regarding use of footpaths.  Key Council staff, Access Committee representatives and Chambers of Commerce were invited to attend.  Macksville Chamber has made a submission to maintain the status quo, but hoped to have someone attend.  (Copy of submission attached.)


Mr Meyers provided a welcome and thanked people for their attendance.  He informed the meeting that there had been previous deferrals due to the timing (leading up to Christmas) and that Council hoped this date would suit the Chambers better.

Mr Meyers provided a history of previous attempts to update the Council’s policy regarding the use of footpaths, and advised that a previous draft review unfortunately resulted in a view that Council was trying to stop activities like street stalls when that was not the intent.  Council was however, attempting to resolve access and insurance issues – and this is still the case. 


Ken reported that Bowraville Chamber felt that Council may have been pushing the decision making from Council to the Chambers of Commerce and Mr Meyers responded that Council was endeavouring to find some way of keeping a clear shoreline, in consultation with the Chambers and street stall holders.


There was then a more general discussion on various related issues as follows:


Street stalls vary in each town and less are occurring these days due to volunteer issues. 


Council has continued to use thee old existing Policy to approve, but areas (eg for street stalls) aren’t delineated for street stalls and the Policy doesn’t address all the current issues.


Footpaths not user-friendly for shoppers – some of them are now mainly the domain of outdoor diners


There was mention of the Director Engineering Service’s proposal to get dining off the footpath by creating a purpose-built designated area on the street.  However this did not proceed. 


There are many people wanting to use footpaths – including people having BBQs – possibly worse than outdoor dining for people with a vision impairment.  Council staff response was that a Section 138 approval is needed.


Council now has a Ranger who can respond to illegal and unapproved uses.


There are many things and people competing for use of the footpaths – parents with prams, children, gophers, tree planters, A frames, ATMS; creating obstacles for people with a vision impairment.


At this point Mr Meyers advised the meeting that it was hoped the working party would work through the various issues and develop some common ground so that a report could be prepared for Council to better manger what’s on footpaths.


Mr Tsembis added that the aim is to develop a best practice policy which recognises the Disability Discrimination Act and the community’s desire for outdoor dining; noting that there will always be differing views.


Greg Meyers left at this point and the time was 9.20am


The meeting then went on the consider the issues from the Council Insurer’s point of view, particularly their preference that (even though items may be covered by insurance) there be no items on the footpath at all. 


Not all footpaths are appropriate for signs and outdoor dining.




The meeting was then provided with a presentation by Council’s Director Engineering Services to outline the various issues and provide an overview the streetscape. (A copy of the presentation to be circulated with the minutes.)


The presentation covered the following key elements:


·    a brief history of attempts to resolve conflicting use of footpaths

·    the Nambucca Shire Council Access Committee’s views,

·    the context for developing a revised policy in terms of the Disability Discrimination Act

·    the proposed new draft Policy

·    the issues and proposed changes

·    examples from around the streets; and

·    the known parameters ie the givens and conflicts


Nambucca Heads – are 9 eating places in main CBD area however not all have outdoor dining.  (Refer to Slide 10) 


Slide 11 showed an area of Bowra Street north where there is a typical width footpath and designated outdoor dining.  The slide showed a particularly busy day (Hot Rod Parade) and how with good planning and the right opportunity, various needs can be met.


Note:  at this point Mr Redman advised that 3.6m is a fairly normal footpath width (this is not legislated but is based on the old traditional 12 foot width for a footpath) and is fairly typical; however not all footpaths are this wide.


Slide 12 showed an area outside Nambucca Heads Police Station where the footpath is the same width (3.6m) however due to number of obstacles (phone box, planter boxes) has much less available for use by pedestrians.


In Macksville – there are 7 eateries fronting footpaths – not all with outdoor dining.  Macksville has footpaths of varying widths (1.7m outside Star Hotel, 2.7m along River Street west, 4.1m outside Tinks with a combination of Council and private land). 


Note:  The new Policy has been developed on the premise that 1.8m is reasonable for 2 people to pass; also this is half the typical footpath width of 3.6m


Slide 16 of River Street West (2.7m) shows a number of obstacles (bins, poles, tables/chairs) along the footpath.  Under the proposed policy this street would not comply and A frame seating, outdoor dining etc would be prohibited. 


Note:  Council has allowed a variation for this street and has resolved to have a reduced pedestrian access width of 1.2 m due to the cost of widening the footpath to meet the proposed policy requirements.


It was noted that it is difficult to maintain a consistent clear footpath width given the differing situations with virtually every footpath around the main towns’ business areas.


Discussion then went on to include how to meet the needs of people with disabilities and at the same time give the shop owner a fair go; and how to do that in the context of insurance considerations. 


Mr McElvie asked if was possible to address insurance issues by having the applicant (for approval to use the footpath) putting in a Risk Assessment?


Mr Tsembis advised that a possible approach could be that where a situation doesn’t comply with the new policy, an application could come to Council accompanied by a Risk Assessment.


A RA could include hazards as well as access considerations. 


Other considerations are dogs, smoking, serving/transfer of food, height of umbrellas, weight of outdoor furniture, the need and appropriateness of barriers around outdoor dining.


Mrs Secomb advised the there is a community view that questions why commercial enterprises can’t stay within their own boundaries when use of the footpath amounts to an extension of the area of their business?  Can Council charge rental on its footpaths?


This lead to a discussion on street stalls - should only local charities be allowed (except for Crazy Day Sales)?  Access Committee saw a difference – charities versus private business provided access considerations are met.  Stalls need a hard structure at either end for people with a cane. Trade tables (commercial not paying for anything) and street stalls seen differently


Council Engineering Policies – can include access considerations but would be a separate exercise to this one.




Mr Tsembis explained that there are a number of options including:

Introduce a new policy straight out.


Defer implementation of a new policy for 60 days to allow people to apply for approval under the old policy.


Council staff could do an audit of A framed signage and outdoor dining  – Safety and Risk Officer and Ranger – speak to shop owners then Council to act if necessary (operators seek approval or penalties apply)


The Working Party agreed with the following:


Those businesses with approval up to now would continued to enjoy that benefit, however if a premises sold or there was a change of use then the right to operate ceases, and the new owner/operator would be required to comply with new policy. 


The working group recommends that under the new Policy, A frame (and similar) signs be prohibited on formed footpaths, given that there are alternatives eg flags, signs on awnings, window displays.


Mr Tsembis thank everyone for their attendance and advised that the notes from today’s meeting would be circulated to interested parties, and that a draft policy would be presented to Council for placement on exhibition.


The meeting closed at 10.15 am