Council weighs in on North Melbourne’s disappearing seats
The City of Melbourne will replace two public seats at tram stops in Errol St after they went missing without explanation. But the North Melbourne community is still concerned about the lack of consultation and the influence of businesses in the area regarding public seating.
North West City News understands one of the seats – which mysteriously disappeared from the Maribyrnong-bound tram stop at the corner of Errol and Queensberry streets in 2011 after local businesses complained about homeless people – will be replaced by the council.
Another seat, which went missing from the city-bound tram stop at the corner of Errol and Victoria streets in February, will also be replaced after the council received complaints from a nearby business.
A third seat in the area remains missing without explanation.
But North Melbourne resident Jan Lacey, who has been demanding answers from the council about the missing seats since they first disappeared in 2011 – an experience which ended up at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) – said replacements were not enough.
“To me the key point is that seats should never be removed without consultation with the community that uses them” Ms Lacey said.
“And commercial premises who don’t actually sit on them should not have undue influence – as they certainly did in 2011.”
As an older person with an injured shoulder, Ms Lacey used to use both public seats to sit and put her shopping down while waiting for the tram.
When the seat at the corner of Errol and Victoria streets disappeared earlier this year, Ms Lacey was again forced to carry her shopping with nowhere to rest while she waited for the tram.
Back in 2011, when Ms Lacey said she initially raised her concerns regarding the removal of the seat at the corner of Errol and Queensberry streets, the council organised meetings between her and the nearby businesses.
Ms Lacey said the meetings were unsuccessful, leaving her with no other option but to accept that the seats were gone, or to lodge a claim with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Ms Lacey launched a complaint with the VEOHRC on the basis of disability discrimination, but was unsuccessful in getting the seat reinstated.
On March 5 this year, Ms Lacey contacted Lord Mayor Sally Capp raising North Melbourne’s problem with vanishing seats again.
A council representative quickly responded to her message in an email seen by North West City News, explaining the seat on the corner of Errol and Victoria streets had been removed because a nearby store complained.
According to the representative, the council has now placed an order to replace the seat at the corner of Errol and Queensberry streets with a public bench outside the old ANZ bank, and the missing city-bound seat will be replaced with a bench in front of Aesop at 504 Victoria St.
The representative said in the email that the seats would be replaced in early to mid-May this year.
A City of Melbourne spokesperson told North West City News “several” public benches along Errol St were removed to allow for extended outdoor dining at local restaurants and cafes.
“Our outdoor dining program has helped many hospitality businesses to safely welcome back patrons, and bring the buzz back to the city,” the spokesperson said.
“New seats will be installed shortly in this area to accommodate local shoppers and tram passengers.”•