Australia's peak pedestrian safety body has raised concerns about reopening Ballarat's Bridge Mall to traffic.
The Pedestrian Council of Australia wrote to the City of Ballarat expressing its "extreme disappointment" in the approach it has undertaken to redesign and approve traffic through the mall.
In March, Ballarat councillors approved plans to allow slow-moving eastbound vehicles to return in a bid to breathe new life into the partially empty mall.
Since then, a number of Ballarat residents have contacted the PCA over legitimate pedestrian and road safety concerns.
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PCA deputy chairman and road safety expert Ray Shuey said one of the main issues was reopening the mall to traffic when countries across the world were enclosing malls following horrific incidents, including Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall car attack.
"It seems ludicrous to open up a pedestrian mall to through-traffic when in Victoria, nationally and globally, we are looking at pedestrian safety in malls," Dr Shuey said.
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"Most countries are putting up barriers and protecting pedestrian safety rather than opening them up."
Dr Shuey said the City of Ballarat's design to allow vehicles in the mall, moving through shoppers and passing an improved children's playground, was unconscionable.
"The expression 'slow speed and shared with pedestrians' in the current format does not provide legitimacy or ensure safety.- Dr Ray Shuey
The PCA sought a pedestrian and road safety audit or risk assessment from the City of Ballarat but Dr Shuey said he did not know if an audit had even been done.
"The response there, although polite, basically says 'we have it all in hand, don't annoy us'. So I have nothing to go back to Ballarat constituents about in relation to that," he said.
Dr Shuey said the City of Ballarat had not included the PCA in its broad-reaching consultation.
City of Ballarat development and growth director Natalie Robertson said safety-in-design, accessibility and road safety audits would take place as part of the design and documentation process, which is currently under way.
"The design team, including expert traffic advisors, continue to work with council's precinct and traffic team to ensure pedestrian safety first and foremost," Ms Robertson said.
Dr Shuey said when the City of Ballarat did not provide the PCA with a response to its questions, he had to apply for freedom of information.
"The second issue is I have applied to the City of Ballarat for a freedom of information to request that same information and it's disappointing to have to go to those lengths when you could be advised openly," he said.
"I think people in Ballarat are entitled to know what actual audits are being undertaken for pedestrian safety and what issues are going to be addressed.
"We don't have any issue with the council doing what they need to do for a range of issues as long as they are open and transparent to the public."
Dr Shuey said the mall's redesign must be done in accordance with Australian standards, taking pedestrian safety as a primary issue.
"They can build whatever they like or design whatever they like but the public are entitled to know what safety precautions are being undertaken, particularly what you've got a children's playground," he said.
"We would like the community to be assured that before the council goes ahead with the development, that they provide advice on their risk assessment, advice on the safety audits and they provide advice on pedestrian safety."
Ms Robertson said the council and an appointed design team conducted an eight-month precinct planning phase which tested how vehicles may be re-introduced to Bridge Street in a way that prioritised pedestrian accessibility and balanced the intended uses of the street.
She said the council and the project team consulted stakeholders and the community on these studies and a one-way eastbound vehicle direction as part of a shared street environment was recommended and endorsed by the council.
The redevelopment is currently in the design development phase which will ensure visitors experienced a real 'sense of place' with the new space, Ms Robertson said.
Construction is expected to take place in March or April next year.
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