Councillors have voted in favour to move forward with the Station Street upgrade.
The council chambers were packed for the debate at the February 14 meeting. Members of the public made sure their objections were heard during the debate.
Highlands Matters public officer Alan Olsen spoke before the debate and received plenty of applause from the crowd.
He asked councillors to consider deferring the matter and speak with the state government to see if the grant money could be used for a different purpose.
“Bowral does not need a bypass, it needs to preserve its unique heart and heritage landscape.”
Mr Olsen highlighted a petition by the group which now has close to 3000 signatures.
But some councillors expressed concerns about the petition and whether the people who signed it were privy to the facts of the proposal.
“There are untruths out there in the marketplace and people have been told porkies,” Cr Gordon Makrwart said.
“Please do your homework before you throw a rock at council. You will find council is actually trying to act in council ratepayers’ interest.”
Parking, the removal of trees and changes to the transport interchange were the key issues of concern raised by Mr Olsen.
Objectors in the gallery held up signs against the proposal at the conclusion of Mr Olsen’s speech.
However, their presence was not enough to deter councillors from voting in favour of the upgrade.
Cr Duncan Gair, who moved the motion said after more than 20 years of discussion with the community about council’s “vision” for Station Street, he was unsure why over the past six months, some residents had become vocal in their opposition.
“We have put the community on notice for 20 years that this is what council’s direction is,” he said.
“The community endorsed it, right up until six months ago. All of a sudden somebody decided this is not a good idea.”
One concern he raised was that there would be a “shortfall” of funds.
As such the motion referred to project to the finance committee to help determine a funding strategy.
Cr Ken Halstead made it clear to those at the meeting that only two pin oaks would be removed and none of the elm trees while Cr Garry Turland said the acquisition of land in Wattle Lane would help provide more parking in the CBD.
“I wonder whether the people involved in this have been misled. People are talking about the number of trees that are going which are a straight out lie. I’m very pro keeping every tree.”
At times it was difficult to hear councillors during the debate as the vocal crowd made their displeasure with the proposal obvious.
Cr Markwart, who chaired the meeting during the debate, had to remind the gallery to remain silent.
Cr Ian Scandrett was the one dissenting vote and he too received applause from the gallery.
He attempted to move an amendment to only have the project referred to the finance committee to discuss a funding strategy but did not receive any support from his fellow councillors.
“I don’t see the value in this project the way it’s in front of us now,” he said. I say this project needs to be reconsidered. I remain very concerned and opposed to this.”
The possibility of bringing Bong Bong Street under council control was also discussed at the meeting.
All councillors hoped that when Station Street was up to an RMS standard they would be able to swap and take over ownership of Bowral’s main street.
Councillor Larry Whipper argued something needed to be done now to improve traffic flow in Bowral or the problem would simply return for future generations to deal with.
“If we don’t [do something] I think we’ll be held accountable for many many generations to come,” he said.
It was a sentiment shared by Cr Gair as he wrapped up the debate.
“How are we going to cope in five years time if we don’t do something now? Don’t do the project - what a negative flaming attitude.”
Following the 8-1 vote, council will proceed with a tender to acquire mature trees to suit the design and a tender for the upgrade’s construction.
The motion also endorsed beginning construction work on Kirkham Road as soon as possible and council will write to its local members to seek further funding for Stage 2 of the project.