A six-months’ trial of the controversial No Left Turn at the southern end of Cronulla mall should continue, a report by Sutherland Shire Council officers recommends.
The report, which said it was too early to evaluate results, will be considered at the council meeting on Monday night.
Staff carried out a preliminary review of the impact on businesses following heated debate at the last council meeting.
Their report said insufficient time has passed to evaluate the trial and it should continue for the planned six month period under close supervision of council.
The report also recommended improved advance warning and direction signposting be provided to assist motorists to understand the new way to enter the retail centre from Cronulla Street.
The trial is due to finish on January 25 next year, but would continue until the council considers a report at its meeting on February 19.
The report said it took people time to adjust to changed traffic conditions and “lack of tolerance for change is often a significant issue”.
“Whilst the concerns of those businesses identifying the impacts are acknowledged, the current real or perceived loss of trade may be the result of a number of contributing factors, including winter weather and therefore cannot necessarily be solely attributed to the traffic changes,” the report said.
The report said continuation would allow the impact to be observed during the warmer months.
The preliminary review included before and after traffic and parking surveys, site observations and video surveillance, a survey of affected businesses and analysis of unsolicited feedback.
“The counts indicate that there has been an overall reduction in peak traffic volumes of approximately 40 per cent in the retail centre (Shared Zone) section of Cronulla Street following the introduction of the no left turn movement,” the report said.
“In this regard, it is worth noting that surveys undertaken prior to the no left turn indicated that approximately 60 per cent of traffic turning into Cronulla Street was circulating without finding a parking space.”
The report said, following the change,the average occupancy rate of all car parking spaces in the survey area reduced from 98 per cent to 94 per cent between 9am and 6pm on a typical weekday and between 9am and 6pm on a typical Saturday.
“Expert analysis indicates that the optimal occupancy rate for on street parking is between 85 per cent and 90 per cent,” it said.
“This allows motorists entering the area to be reasonably confident of obtaining a parking space and avoid unnecessary circulation of vehicles attempting to find a parking space which contributes to town centre traffic congestion.”
The report said of the 54 businesses that completed a survey, 39 per cent said there was a very noticeable reduction in customers and a further 16 per cent reported a slight decline.
Thirty-four per cent had indicated a very noticeable reduction in takings compared to the same period last year and a further 27 per cent reported a slight reduction.
”Based on retailer feedback it is apparent that many genuinely perceive that the reduced traffic volumes have negatively impacted their businesses,” the report said.
“Anecdotally, some businesses have indicated an approximate reduction of 15 to 20 per cent of turnover in comparison to the month preceding the introduction of the trial or same period as last year.
“This was particularly so for the cafe and clothing type businesses and less so for the produce and service type businesses.
“However, no businesses were able to provide quantifiable data to support these figures.
“Concerns were more pronounced towards the southern end of the centre.
“Businesses north of Purley Place seemed far less affected given they are closer to the Croydon Street car park.
“Other businesses reported that, whilst they have not identified any change in revenue, they have received feedback from customers that the changed traffic movement was inconvenient.
“Whilst individual retailers figures cannot be verified by council, they are contrary to the results of the parking and pedestrian surveys.
“In this regard, there was the suggestion from some proprietors that as a result of the improved parking availability combined with the inconvenience of the no left turn there has been a change in the dynamic of customers using the parking.
“For example, there are more planned visitations rather than passing trips which may benefit some businesses while disadvantaging others.”
The report said 14 unsolicited written responses were received, including a petition [circulated by Councillor Marie Simone] with 49 signatures from local businesses calling for the immediate removal of the traffic restriction.
“With regard to the petition, it should be noted that when contacted directly some business proprietors indicated that they had felt an obligation to sign the petition to support the petitioner but that it did not accurately reflect their position/situation,” the report said..
The report said the Cronulla Chamber of Commerce had advised there had been a mixed reaction from members, and had suggested continuing the trial while providing better warnings and sign posting for motorists.