For a year 6 homeschool research project, 11-year-old Tara interviewed five different small businesses in Bellingen. Here’s what she found is impacting them:
I expected rent to be their biggest issue but I was WRONG!
I found that most issues related to council communication and a big parking problem.
In town we have very little parking, as you may know. One business owner said that tourists drive past but can’t find a park so they don't stop.
I interviewed a council staff member about this and he said it depends how much you want to find a park, all you have to do is walk a bit.
For passing tourists, seeing free parking spaces in front of interesting shops and buildings intrigues them to stop, browse and spend money. But removing these key spaces makes the shops, mentally and physically invisible, discouraging tourists from stopping.
According to council's Create website we had a total of 365 parking spaces in Bellingen CBD, including council parking. The beautification project caused further parking shortage by removing 14 key spaces from in front of Church and Oak streets.
Council's response was to employ parking rangers to alleviate parking difficulties faced by people.
The next issue faced was the communication of the beautification process in town. Several businesses said they would have planned it better and given shop owners more notice. Others commented, communicate more, communication is key!
The council staff member acknowledged they could have done it better but said businesses need to go out there to find the information and that Create was there for people and businesses to see and vote for how the town is going to look.
I said, “Owning a business you may not have the time to look online checking on these things, is there a business-friendly approach?” and he responded, “If they want to know they have to make time, it is part of their job.” I wondered how businesses are supposed to find something that they didn't know even existed?
During the beautification process, stage one suffered lack of communication that had a significant impact on small businesses. However, communication in stage two was much smoother, but still had room for improvement.
The small businesses in town keep Bellingen alive, by providing employment to locals, and keeping Bello unique.
I wonder what council will do next …