BEAM Mitchell Environment Group has been closely in promoting sustainability in Seymour and has made detailed contributions to the Seymour Structure Plan. So we are concerned about the proposal to locate a Bunnings store in central Seymour. We object to the proposal for four main reasons: the location of the store will have a negative impact on future developments in a central part of Seymour; the store will increase traffic in areas where people and bicycles should be a primary consideration; the destruction of old factory buildings is not consistent with the heritage values of the area; the store will have a negative impact on local businesses and on the economy of Seymour.
This submission has been prepared using arguments raised and developed by several members of BEAM.
Location of the store in Anzac Avenue
One of the major topics for discussion around the Structure Plan was the enhancement of Anzac Avenue as a retail and service precinct. Our broader vision was a place for people with an emphasis on pedestrians and bicycles.
The Seymour Structure Plan specifically proposes that the Anzac Avenue site should be developed to “minimise the visual bulk of large buildings”; it should “provide active and engaging frontages”; there should be “transparent and engaging shopfronts that contribute positively to street life”. The Structure Plan has the Bunnings site marked as highway/commercial/tourism/retail/ food and beverage uses” which implies a diversity of uses, and proposes the area be rezoned from “Industrial 1 Zone to Commercial Zone 2 to encourage more active uses along Anzac Avenue” (Figure 11, also S2.2)).
The Bunnings development is entirely incompatible with these objectives. Bunnings would occupy a large space – a large warehouse plus a carpark and loading bay facing the street – to the exclusion of a diversity of many smaller business outlets and offices, community facilities mixed with higher density housing close to the main commercial outlets and community services including the station. And it would set the area on a path to other industrial warehouse-style businesses setting up in the geographical centre of Seymour.
So building a Bunnings store in Anzac Avenue will lock Seymour into more of the same and lock out the better visions for the town reflected in the Structure Plan.
Impact of traffic
Anzac Avenue is a critical area for pedestrians with the school, shops and library, medical services, Seymour Pre-school Centre, maternal and child health centre, senior citizens centre, and the sporting ovals and sports and aquatic centre. The Plan states that “there are opportunities to improve connections between these centres and nearby facilities by providing an integrated pedestrian and cycle trail” (5.3.5). We have argued for a more people-friendly town, and that means placing the interests of pedestrians and cyclists above the dominance of vehicles.
We have argued that bicycle use – almost non-existent in Seymour at present – could be enhanced with modifications along Anzac Avenue. The Plan supports this in principle: “Prioritising walking and cycling will help to create vibrant streets, improve safety and surveillance and strengthen business activity” (5.8.2). The Plan also identifies future options for walking and cycling paths along Anzac Avenue, Oak Street and Victoria Street. The Plan does not have any details on how this would be achieved but identifies the development of a Trails Network as a high priority. BEAM has proposed a single lane either side of Anzac Avenue to allow for this Network and make it easier for pedestrian movement.
We have also argued against Oak Street as the main truck route from the east as this brings more traffic and particularly trucks into this high pedestrian zone. Now we have a proposal from Bunnings to increase the vehicle traffic using Anzac Avenue, Victoria Street, Wimble Street and Oak Street. Vehicles turning at the intersections (including U-turns at Oak Street) will make these intersections more hazardous. And the additional busy driveways and the loading bay access cutting across the footpaths and any bicycle trails will add to risks. Delivery trucks – i8ncluding semi0trailers – are a critical issue. Bunnings are planning to increase the number of trucks using Wimble Street and Victoria Street which are residential streets (and include the Pre-school Centre). These are quiet streets with few heavy vehicles at present. The increase in traffic will increase hazards to pedestrians, people entering and leaving vehicles, and cyclists.
In addition, trucks in particular will create a lot more noise to these residential streets. Bunnings are expecting to have trucks coming between 6am to 4pm each day. And reversing alarms from forklifts at the loading bay will add to noise levels. Seymour is a remarkably quiet town and we want to keep it that way. Trucks delivering to Bunnings will significantly increase in noise levels in the centre of Seymour
So a Bunnings store in central Seymour will work against any aspirations as a place for people to walk and cycle in safety and comfort.
Heritage and streetscape values
The original factory building with it saw-tooth truss roof is part of Seymour’s history. The current building is old and needs work to remove hazards, but it could be renovated and used in imaginative ways. Seymour could build a future in and around our old industrial and manufacturing buildings stock. Whether these are heritage listed or not, old dominant structures re-used allow our history to continue into new use (like WineXSam has done) and reinforce our identity. Such re-use of buildings will keep one of the features that makes Seymour unique as an affordable town that is commutable to Melbourne. A large metal Bunnings Warehouse is inconsistent with this. The Bunnings proposal would throw away the building and all the materials – the usual wasteful practice – and replace it with a building of no visual interest and probably limited life.
The Plan identifies Anzac Avenue as one of the entry points into Seymour and proposes landscape plan for a staged entry. Again, a large Bunnings building would not enhance the streetscape but would preclude any future preferred alternatives.
Economic impacts of a Bunnings store
Bunnings is a large organisation with a strong competitive ability compared with local businesses. Feedback from these businesses indicate that at least one local hardware store will go out of business and many other specialist hardware and garden suppliers in Seymour will be affected by the lure of Bunnings.
Bunnings is not a local business and the entry of a nationally-owned Bunnings store will see money flow out of the community, compared with local and regional businesses that feed their income back into the town. The net result is that more money spent on hardware will drain from the town. Bunnings assistance to the community in supporting sausage sizzles is a small contribution to the community and a large promotion for their business.
We recognise that Bunnings stores are popular for their cheap prices and wide diversity (in their mega-stores), but we feel this does not make up for the long-term negative impacts on the town.
If we must have a Bunnings in Seymour, this type of bulk warehouse merchandising style could go ANYWHERE on the outskirts of Seymour and thrive. People rarely walk to hardware stores, so we propose that it be located in an industrial area away from the centre of Seymour and in an area that is more accessible to trucks and cars. The best locations would be to the west of the railway line to minimize traffic through the township and optimize access from the freeways. The Structure Plan identifies several existing and proposed sites readily accessible from the freeways and the town.
An alternative is the current industrial area in Wimble Street. The Plan identifies this industrial area for “urban renewal” although this would require major changes for many businesses and is unlikely in the short to medium term. Again, this area has buildings that are part of Seymour’s industrial and military history but new buildings could be integrated into the site.
We ask the Council to talk to Bunnings prior to the vote in Council, to persuade them that the community is not happy with their current proposal to use the Anzac Avenue site, and to propose and support the use of another site that will provide a good alternative for Bunnings and for the future of Seymour.