A MAJOR section of Main Street, Mornington is about to be turned into a pedestrian mall, at least until the end of February.
With state government approval cars will be banned from the street to encourage outdoor dining and shopping between Barkly Street and the Esplanade.
Key commercial areas in other towns will also undergo changes to enable more open-air trading, with traffic speeds slowed and some parking spaces being used for outdoor eating.
Mornington Peninsula Shire says the moves are part of a plan to help peninsula traders bounce back from lockdown.
The decision was made by shire officers without the input of councillors during the council elections.
A news release from the shire says it worked closely with business and community groups to draw up plans to help shops, cafes and restaurants stay viable and the public stay safe under the COVID-safe regulations.
Mornington Chamber of Commerce promotions and marketing manager Alex Levy said the shire was reacting to public comment and “it’s good they are giving it a try now”.
“I did a small survey of traders from a mix of businesses a month ago and the response was fairly positive,” she said. “I didn’t get a huge response, but those I did hear from were supportive. I didn’t hear from anyone against it.”
Traffic in Mornington will be diverted onto ring roads and car parks on either side of Main Street, with disabled parking and bus stops moved to the closest suitable spots.
Traffic management measures are also now in place around Mount Eliza and Sorrento, with other towns to follow in coming weeks.
Changes include lower speed limits to ensure safety of shoppers and diners.
Street furniture, such as benches and bins, have been removed from some towns to provide more space for outdoor eating.
“Our number one priority right now is supporting our local businesses to ensure our economy stays vibrant and strong,” shire CEO John Baker said.
“Opening up some of our key shopping streets to open-air retail and dining will inevitably mean slightly fewer parking spaces, but it’s vital we do this to support our businesses.
“This will create more space to allow people to move around and keep at a safe social distance, and build confidence for visitors and locals to return to our shopping strips.”
Driving slower and parking further away was “a small price to pay to keep our village centres alive”.
“I urge everyone in our community to slow down, walk a bit more or hop on your bike, dine alfresco, support local traders and re-connect over summer,” Mr Baker said.