Serge’s Column

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Greetings friends and fellow citizens!

I am very happy with the response I had to my last column, in particular to the topic of naming streets and lanes after prominent local citizens. I can see that this is a topic that matters to people, and I am very grateful for your thoughts and your feedback. Keep those emails and phone calls coming!

Obviously, I don’t have enough space here to deal with all the comments I received in full. I will, however, respond to one fellow citizen, who made the salient comment that all the names of prominent people I mentioned in the column – either those that have had streets named after them, or whom I feel should be commemorated in this way – are those of men.

It’s a fair comment, and one that I was aware of when I was writing the column. All I can say in my defence is that of all the existing street names I looked at, I couldn’t find a single one named after a woman – apart from Mirka Lane and Mary St. This is perhaps not surprising, considering that many of them were named at a time when men tended to get all the glory. Of my suggested list of future candidates, I can only say that I had included that of artist Joy Hester in my original draft, but, perhaps due to space constraints, it was one of the names edited out in the final copy.

I had also thought of including the name of actress Sheila Florance to the list– someone so influential among the residents of Robe St, that I think that street should be renamed Florance St, though I understand the difficulties of renaming major streets. To all women citizens who follow my column, I say: feel free to let me know of any other deserving women to add to the list that you think I may have overlooked.

One of the big topics doing the rounds of St Kilda at the moment is that of live music venues – more specifically, the sometimes troublesome coexistence of live music venues and residential properties. We St Kilda residents love it for what it is: a place with a vibrant cultural scene that thrives on holding recreational activities of all kinds – be they music festivals, sporting competitions, the beach, the parks and gardens, the cafes and restaurants, or that little “je ne sais quoi” that keeps people wanting to spend time here. And this is nothing new. St Kilda has always been a place where – in one way or another – people came to play.

However, living in a “lively” part of town does come at a cost. Noise from music and people can be intrusive, and litter strewn about carelessly by punters after a good night out is unsightly and unwelcome by those who have to live with it. This problem has become even more acute in recent years with the increase in residential properties built, sometimes inevitably, near places of entertainment.

It’s a tricky and contradictory situation for residents. We love living in St Kilda because it gives us the opportunity to be close to the things that makes life interesting, but which can prevent us from feeling that we live in a reasonably tidy environment and that can stop us from getting a decent night’s sleep.

It’s also difficult for those running entertainment venues. They are told that St Kilda wants them to provide the music, bars and restaurants that the suburb is famous for, but who feel constrained to do so by too many council regulations and the complaints of residents.

And it’s difficult for councils, too, which have to try and balance the needs of both parties.

From the point of view of a councillor, I believe that the best way to try and tackle the problem – as far as it can be – is to go much further in the provisions in planning laws than we have done so far. I take inspiration from the work done by pressure group SLAM, created after the successful fight against the closure of the Tote Hotel. I agree with their key points, particularly the “agent of change” principle. This principle states that the ‘…onus of responsibility falls on the new party, the agent requesting the change.’ It goes on to say that this principle ‘…also safeguards new residents, as developers are obliged to implement proper design and sound attenuation.’

SLAM also state their belief that ‘…Existing “cultural clusters” must be recognized and protected by planning law.” I will be pushing for work to that effect to be considered by the City of Port Phillip, in consultation with residents, live music representatives and local music venues. This work will aim to make changes in our planning scheme. I am also in favour of establishing a Live Music Working Group. This is a model adopted by the City of Yarra, though I would hope that our officers are more open-minded about implementing the suggestions and recommendations of this group.

There is no doubt that the City of Port Phillip, and St Kilda in particular, is becoming even more densely populated. In this part of town, problems relating to noise and litter are never going to be solved to everyone’s satisfaction. However, we residents should not forget the reasons why we decided to live in St Kilda and why we love being here.

As usual, I welcome all suggestions and feedback from SKN readers on this topic or on any other that readers feel merit discussion.

Happy 1st Birthday to SKN!

By Serge Thomann

 

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