Mt Barker plaza

It is an intersection many Mt Barker residents drive out of their way to avoid.
For years navigating the junction of Morphett and Hutchinson streets – whether on foot or behind the wheel – has been a little like a game of Russian roulette.
For just about as long there have been plans to fix the traffic chaos with lights or a roundabout.
Now the council, through private consultants, has come up with something entirely different.
Its long-term vision is for a possible pedestrian plaza linking the existing Mt Barker Central Shopping Centre with a proposed Big W complex.
The idea is a bold one.
There is nothing of its kind in Mt Barker, or surrounding towns.
It would close off a section of a busy central road and divert traffic pressure to other intersections already stressed by the town’s rapid growth.
But it would also give Mt Barker residents something they have wanted for a long time – a community space in the heart of the town.
Mt Barker is crying out for such a place in its CBD where people can gather and socialise.
It was one of the key issues raised with the council during public consultation on its town centre strategy.
The plaza plan has merit and the people who identified a need for such a space should be given the chance to have their say on the idea.
Instead, the council has decided to release two other options for the junction that do not include the full road closure.
Both options would make the intersection safer by reducing traffic speeds and providing new pedestrian crossings, as well as transforming part of Morphett Street into a smaller public plaza.
Both could easily be expanded to include the Hutchinson Street plaza development.
Developing the full plaza does not appear to add too much to the overall project cost to make it economically prohibitive.
So it is bemusing as to why the council has not released the full option, dubbed stage two, for comment as well.
For those who do want to have their say on the options, making an informed submission may be a challenge with the council yet to formalise its long-term plan for the town centre.
The impact of closing part of Hutchinson Street, or regulating traffic flow at the junction, will be difficult to gauge without knowing what the council is planning for the rest of the CBD’s roads.
It is commendable that the council is seeking consultation early on for such an important project. However, it is a timely reminder that long-term plans urgently need to be put in place to guide the next wave of growth set to swamp the town.