However - can I please urge you to vote against this most appalling of development proposals. Apart from the heritage implications (the proposals involves the demolition of two buildings of high heritage status, though one of these, the old Duke of York hotel, is not on the register, though it should be) and we absolutely have to hold the line, now, on the preservation of the city’s remnant colonial heritage.

And there is an even more important reason to reject this latest piece of advanced folly. We have just played host here in Hobart to Jan Gehl, the world’s greatest expert - a practical expert, not a mere theorist - on the revitalisation of inner cities. And his central message to us is that the first and most fundamental step to such reinvigoration is to get cars out of the centre of the city. And you do this - his message was quite uniequivocal - by NOT investing in the sort of infrastructure that brings cars into the city in the first place - inner city freeways and multi-story carparks. The construction of such ‘facilities’ does not so much cater for existing demand as greatly ramp up future demand. Think of the infrastructure nightmares that will cause. Think of the flow-on problems it will cause for processing traffic into and out of the city - on the Brooker, the Southern Outlet and the Tasman Bridge. These inlet/outlets are at full capacity as it is. To approve this development, thereby massively ramping up private car demand for road access to the city, the Council will be buying itself one whole mess of trouble.

I see the developer and his tame parrot* on the Mercury’s editorial desk have observed that if we don’t make it easier for people to park in Hobart the CBD will lose business to the regional malls. Personally I think that makes a great deal of social and environmental sense, but as the existence of 5 councils servicing Greater Hobart absolutely precludes a whole-of-Hobart approach to planning, I’ll not waste my breathe beating that particular drum. I will observe that in the short term the developer is probably right - but in the longer term, if we CAN succeed in removing such an unsustainable volume of cars from the inner city, people will flock thereto, simply because it will be such a pleasant place in which to BE.

Right now, though, the city is choking under its weight of cars. Please do not vote for this proposal and its attendant massive increase in private car demand. Think - we have had the world’s best-credentialled expert in these matters right here in Hobart, a mere three weeks ago, telling us that this is precisely what we must NOT do. What folly to bring such a man to Hobart - and then blithely ignore his sage advice! Could we be so idiotic?

What the *tame parrot said:

Mercury editorial, Wednesday, April 1:
DEVELOPER Ali Sultan’s big plans for the city of Hobart are a rare sign of confidence amid the news of recession and worldwide economic crisis.

He has $85 million worth of investments proposed, approved or under construction on three sites around the city. Mr Sultan is the only person investing on this scale in the area and what he is planning amounts to a commercial revival of the central business district. His optimism, vision and drive is just what it needs.

Hobart has not recovered from the shattering loss of the bulk of its main department store in the Myer fire of 2007. Economic troubles have delayed plans to rebuild the store and redevelop Cat and Fiddle Arcade, and the boarded-up Myer site is a glaring reminder that Hobart’s shopping heart is not what it was.

While civic and business leaders fret about the economy, the decline of the city and competition from suburban centres, Mr Sultan is doing something about it.

A four-star hotel on Collins St opposite the Royal Hobart Hospital is providing that encouraging sign of economic activity and employment, a construction crane on the skyline.

Another big project, with offices, car parking and a shopping centre, including a much-needed city supermarket, has been approved for the corner of Argyle and Liverpool streets, continuing the commercial revival of that end of town.

Now he proposes yet another shopping arcade and carpark nearby, on the corner of Argyle and Bathurst streets. It would provide 24-hour parking, useful for shift workers, patients and visitors at the hospital, which does not look like it is going anywhere soon.

Mr Sultan’s developments also could help with plans to get long-term parking off the waterfront. Providing convenient parking around the edges of the CBD could divert traffic off the central shopping streets, giving the council a chance to make them more of a pedestrian zone. If a gleaming new Myer store gets the go-ahead too, a real sense of excitement and optimism could return to the CBD.

As with any major development, Mr Sultan’s plans are not welcomed by all. Some fear the loss of heritage but most of his CBD plans are on sites that have seen better days, well away from the waterfront and his more controversial Battery Point proposal.

Another criticism is that car parking should not be encouraged in Hobart. The essence of this argument is that Tasmanians should be deprived of choice and forced to steer clear of the city centre if they insist on driving, and steer clear is exactly what they would do. It would condemn the city to permanent decline as people shopped where parking was available freely, in the suburbs.

City parking is a contentious issue and the concerns of those pressing for more sustainable transport options must be taken seriously, as they are by the State Government and councils. There are plans for bus lanes, park-and-ride schemes and better bike tracks but cash-strapped governments are not going to create lavish mass transport systems overnight.

It would be unrealistic and self-destructive to reject Mr Sultan’s latest plans simply because we would prefer a high-density city of cyclists and bus users.

Pete Hay
I HAD intended to lodge a formal representation on this matter , (the Montpelier Retreat redevelopment, including carparks)  thinking that I had until today to do so, but it has vanished from the Council’s website, so I guess I’ve missed the boat.