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PRESSURE is building on the state government to let Hunter Street businesses in on a Sydney-style deal where retailers impacted by light rail work have been offered compensation.
The Hunter Business Chamber has revealed it is investigating the George Street compensation plan to determine if it could be applied to Newcastle, while Newcastle Now chairman Edward Duc said he believed traders “certainly have a case” to argue.
However, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald poured cold water on the plan, saying “George Street is very different to Hunter Street”, with Sydney experiencing disruption of a higher intensity.
It comes after a Newcastle Now preliminary survey of CBD businesses showed most were down between 10 and 25 per cent on ordinary trade since the start of the building boom in the city.
The results of the survey came before light rail construction ramped up on Friday, with a new section of Hunter Street, between Crown and Perkins streets, closing to traffic.
That closure is in addition to the block between Auckland and Darby streets, which has been off-limits to traffic since mid-September.
The new closures triggered heavy delays on King Street, with traffic gridlocked between Bolton and Auckland streets.
Traffic crawls to a creep after the closure of a new section of Hunter Street, between Crown and Perkins streets, on Friday. Picture: Simone De Peak
Hunter Business Chamber chief Bob Hawes said retailers were paying a price and confirmed the chamber was investigating a compensation plan offered to George Street businesses.
Under that plan, the state government employed accounting firm Ernst and Young to assess financial loss, with the government confirming it would offer rent relief to stand-alone retailers along the light rail route.
Mr Hawes said the chamber had “noted” the Sydney compensation plan.
“I really must stress we haven’t approached the government about it, but we’ve noted it and we’re talking about it with Newcastle Now,” he said.
“We’re doing our homework and getting data to see if there’s a possibility if it could be applied to Newcastle.”
Mr Duc said Newcastle Now “will not ignore” the Sydney compensation plan.
“I would put that our traders certainly have a case for compensation,” he said.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Mr MacDonald said the government was aware some retailers were calling for compensation, but also said “George Street is very different to Hunter Street” in terms of disruption.
“We've got strategies in place and we believe they are going to be as effective as possible,” he said.
“When you go to George Street there is severe disruption over a longer period of time.
“In Newcastle, we’re keeping it fairly contained and limited.”
Newcastle Now plans to conduct a more thorough survey on the impact of construction work on CBD businesses.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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