BY KENJI SATO
Restaurant patrons may soon be able to dine outdoors in Martin place under new plans to redevelop the area.
Last week, the City of Sydney Council revealed draft policies that will cut red tape and allow businesses to serve food and drink outside.
The plans will also introduce more outdoor lighting, trees, landscaping, and public seating areas.
Restaurants will also be required to use “French bistro” style chairs outdoors, with other styles of chairs needing approval from the council.
Greens Councillor Irene Doutney said she hoped the changes will bring life into the “drab” and “barren” walkway.
“Martin Place is one of the most important public spaces in the CBD and at the moment it’s a very cold and unwelcoming place,” she said.
“If you go there during the weekend there’s nobody there. The City is trying to humanise, pedestrianise, and revitalise the area.”
Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla told City Hub that these changes should have happened a long time ago.
“It’s unbelievable that it has taken the City until 2015 to wake up to the potential of one of Sydney’s most under-utilised assets, Martin Place,” Clr Mandla said.
“Instead of fast tracking Martin Place outdoor dining, the City has been preoccupied with banning smoking, something which is effectively unenforceable.”
The council is discussing whether or not to allow dining near the Martin Place Cenotaph, a monument dedicated to World War I veterans.
The RSL has said that they are willing to allow dining near the Cenotaph, provided that restaurant staff are trained to “respect the significance of the monument”.
However, Urban Planning academic, Associate Professor Catherine Bridge, told City Hub that disability access should be a priority.
“When we’re talking about memorial functions, we need to be thinking about veterans – many of our veterans are disabled,” she said.
“If we fail to consider that in the overall plan, then we are designing a space which excludes the people for whom it was intended.”
Professor Bridge said that she wants to see more people in Martin Place.
“Maximising public space is part of what makes a welcoming and active space, and dining is a good way to make Martin Place an active space,” she said.
“But the problem with dining is that it’s a for-profit activity, which only people who can afford to pay for dining can participate in. I think that dining shouldn’t be the top priority.”
“We should be seriously thinking about making seriously inviting public spaces,” she said.