Businesses warn against Woolies

The Junction Inn owner Andrew Wedmaier says the council was wrong to green light a second Woolworths in Raymond Terrace. Picture: Marina NeilTHE dominance of Woolworths retailers in the centre of Raymond Terrace will suffocate attempts to revitalise the town, business owners warn.

Port Stephens Council has released a draft strategy to promote the growth of the town into a major regional city.

Once identified by the NSW government as one of six major regional centres, the strategy states that Raymond Terrace is set to accommodate an additional 300 dwellings and 1600 jobs by 2031.

Peter Marler, the council’s strategic planning co-ordinator, said the strategy was about creating ‘‘an urban environment that fosters economic development, while reinforcing its heritage significance’’.

‘‘One of the key components of the strategy is the proposed upgrade of the main street of Raymond Terrace,’’ he said.

‘‘Three proposed options are included in the strategy and are intended to create a more desirable environment for people to visit, increasing foot traffic and in turn supporting local business.’’

But some business owners claim the dominance of Woolworths in the town’s centre is strangling competition.

‘‘We’re saturated by Woolworths, the council has already made a mistake in that regard,’’ Andrew Wedmaier, owner of the Junction Inn, said.

‘‘You only need to look at that to know why there are all these empty shops in William Street.’’

There are two major Woolworths supermarkets located just off the town’s main street.

Commonly referred to as the old and new Woolworths, they sit to the west and east of the main street and are complemented by a Woolworths-owned Dan Murphy’s liquor outlet as well.

The newer $20million centre development was fiercely opposed by sections of the community when it was approved by the council in 1997 after a seven-year saga.

Raymond Terrace retailers formed a committee opposing the development, convinced it would harm local businesses.

Craig Higgins, from Dowling Real Estate, agreed, saying the Woolworths stores ‘‘dominated’’ the town.

‘‘We certainly need some competition, even another big retailer,’’ he said.

Mr Higgins also said King Street, which runs along the Hunter River, was under-utilised.

‘‘You’ve got this quite nice stretch along the river that could be used for tourism purposes, but there’s nothing there,’’ he said.

‘‘But in the end, like anything, it’s about who has the money and is prepared to put their backside on the line.’’

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