Positive news about fewer vacant shops in Shepparton’s central business district is always welcome.
So, it was pleasing to last week learn Shepparton’s vacancy rate had again dropped — to 8.2 per cent.
And while Maude St and Fryers St appear to be improving, a disappointing narrative emerged regarding the difficulty filling shops along two key Shepparton arterials.
There are plenty of ways not having a highway bypass around Shepparton has impacted the city.
The most visible of these is the congestion caused by B-doubles needing to thread their way through the centre of the CBD in the absence of an efficient way around.
No-one likes this, trucking operators least of all.
While pedestrian safety concerns associated with volumes of heavy vehicles passing through the CBD are clear, one of the less obvious negative affects of such traffic is the impact on businesses.
According to Greater Shepparton City Council, the economic development team have experienced difficulty filling shop vacancies along High St and Wyndham St as a result of the volume of B-doubles trawling through the city.
Surely this is not the only reason potential businesses are reluctant to set up shop there.
Obviously there are other factors at play here.
And a cynic may say the council is looking for a convenient scapegoat.
But the reality is, B-double trucks do detract from the amenity of being in the Shepparton CBD, whether you’re a pedestrian or business owner.
They’re noisy and imposing.
The council indicated consultation conducted with retailers and customers as part of bypass advocacy had found motorists could feel intimidated parking along the key city streets with B-doubles bearing down on them.
This is a valid concern.
Regardless of how clear the link is, and how severe the impact is, this only serves to add to and reinforce the long list of reasons the city needs a bypass.
A promising step was made earlier this year when about $10million in funding was secured to begin planning, care of the state budget.
But, after years of conversation, this constitutes just a fraction of what is need for even the first stage of the first phase.
This long timeline appears not lost on the council, with roadworks to sections of Welsford St hoping to ensure it can bear some of the burden, somewhat relieving Wyndham St and High St from truck traffic.
Or as the council has put it, encouraging heavy vehicles to use alternative routes, especially east- west.
The demand for the long-awaited bypass, and the considerable need, appears to grow by the year, with the impacts of not having one ever significant.