THE Foster Laneways Project has taken another step closer to being implemented, following a public presentation of the final concept plan for the laneway next to FoodWorks and Foster Seafoods, to South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday.
Rebecca Matthews and Lynn Atkinson from the Foster Community Association (FCA) Laneways Project team presented the ‘Starry Night’ concept plan and design (as described in The Mirror of March 18, 2015), following the concept’s selection by the FCA from a field of 10 possibilities developed by public artist David Bell.
Mr Bell and Ms Matthews had been contracted to develop designs and plans for the laneway as part of the greater vision of FCA’s Town Beautification Project which aims to improve amenities and access for the Foster community.
The concepts originated from ideas, suggestions and thoughts put forward during the community consultation stage of the project, which was carried out between April and July 2014, incorporating a survey which attracted 181 responses.
A summary of the community feedback highlighted the importance of seating, shelter from weather, resurfacing, the addition of greenery, artwork and community noticeboards and very importantly, improvements to safety and accessibility.
This laneway is currently used by the public for access between Main Street and the car park at the rear of the businesses on the eastern side of the street, in addition to food transportation via forklift to the supermarket. It is also frequently used as a venue for busking and for community raffles.
Currently, it has little aesthetic appeal, with unsightly plumbing, waste management issues and uneven pavement.
“The laneway has looked unloved for a long time,” said Cr Mohya Davies, who is a Foster resident.
Cr Davies agreed with Cr Jeanette Harding that the project had been in the pipeline for a long time but had failed to get off the ground earlier, when funding of $70,000 was made available, due largely to issues with laneway ownership. These funds were instead directed towards artwork to beautify the Foster War Memorial Arts Centre.
The laneway is now partly owned by Council and partly by the owner of Foster Seafoods who has no objection to the proposed beautification. The owner of the Foodworks building is happy with proposed changes so long as the business is not interrupted.
The Laneways team have met twice with Council’s senior engineers and a senior planner to determine if the project is compatible with the Foster Streetscape project, which is currently in planning with Council.
“The implementation of the Laneways Design project is dependent on and connected with Council’s longstanding commitment to the proposed upgrade of Foster’s Main Street. This is known as the Foster Streetscape project,” said Ms Atkinson, who explained that Council’s proposed project and that of the FCA are connected in several ways.
“First is a timeline issue: we can’t implement the refurbishment plan until drainage works are completed as part of the planned Streetscape upgrade; secondly, some elements of the laneways design, for example the outstands at the street exit to the laneway, overlap with Council’s Streetscape plans,” she said.
FCA understands that Council’s budget for the Foster Streetscape project needs to be supplemented by external grant money.
“At this stage, our laneways project has a budget, but it is unfunded. The implementation of our project is also dependent on external grant money being forthcoming,” Ms Atkinson said, adding that FCA is hoping that Council can be of some assistance.
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks said that he was 100 per cent behind the project but that raising the capital was the easy part. He stressed the need to clarify who would be responsible for ongoing management and maintenance of the lane.
The presenters left the meeting buoyed by what they saw as general support from Council.