A bid by Frankton's biggest retailer, Forlongs, to get better access for customers by moving the local markets has backfired with a council decision to open the road while stallholders trade on footpaths.
The Hamilton City Council yesterday settled the dispute by agreeing to trial a shared-space concept, whereby cars will travel down Commerce St while the markets run on the footpath and into the parallel carparks but pedestrians have right of way.
The shared space comes into affect from Saturday, March 3.
There is a limit to the number of days roads can be closed each year. The council allowed closures because they were for half days but this was challenged by Forlongs.
The council has decided to turn Commerce St - between High St and Lake Rd - into a shared space on Saturday mornings.
Councillors will revisit the move next month after staff investigate whether it is viable long term.
Forlongs general manager Terry Forlong doubted it was just a trial. Forlongs had wanted the markets to move to Sundays, when the store is closed, so it could ensure better access and parking for customers. Forlongs had also said theft increased on market days.
Frankton Markets co-ordinator Vinod Bhikha said the next few weeks would be spent educating people about the change. The markets' first choice was to close the road while the market was on.
"It will be interesting to see how stallholders feel in terms of foot traffic now being on the footpath and stall holders on the road will be trading in towards the footpath."
Councillor Maria Westphal pushed the idea of a shared lane in a bid to come up with a solution that worked for everyone.
"Frankton is not just Forlongs. Yes, Forlongs has done wonderful things for Frankton, yes, they started the markets, but Frankton is about all the businesses ..."
Mrs Westphal rejected colleagues' concerns that public safety could be at risk and said cars travelled at only about 10km/h. She also thought motorists might be deterred, once they saw markets and pedestrians, and opt for another route.
Councillor Ewan Wilson said it was a tragedy that the two parties couldn't come up with a compromise. "It [the shared road] is not perfect - it comes at a high risk."
Councillor Gordon Chesterman predicted a shared lane would be a "shambles" and said the city had to look after its businesses in tough economic times.