IT is the question all of Gloucester want answered; will it stay or will it go?
Since 2011, the Meeting Place has been dividing public opinion in the town.
The history of the Meeting Place has been well publicised.
In 2011 council received grant funding to extend the Meeting Place and narrow Denison St to one-way traffic only.
It caused great angst among the community with a widely circulated petition receiving 865 signatures.
Of the signatories, just 76 people said they were in favour of the existing Meeting Place, while 677 said they were not. Among those most affected by the extension of the Meeting Place was business owner Rodney Summerville, of Valley Motors.
He said he had no doubts that the closure of Denison St to two-way traffic had impacted his business.
“Every business needs traffic flow,” he said.
“From February 2012 to June of this year, my Auto Pro business as fallen away 30 percent.
“Up to July 2012 we employed three guys out the front and five out the back. We’ve effectively lost three staff since and it’s all because it went so quiet.
“The Meeting Place is not the sole factor, but it definitely hasn’t helped.”
Gloucester Soldiers Club secretary-manager Anthony Hughes agrees the Meeting Place has seen a reduction in foot traffic on Denison St.
He says the closure of the street to two-way traffic has also caused serious issues with road safety.
“There are already issues with people using the narrow artery through the King St car park,” he said.
“If we have a large function at the club it’s bedlam when vehicles are trying to leave.
“And caravans have no hope if they come down Denison St the wrong way. Their GPS guides them to the Visitor Information Centre and by the time they get down here it’s too late for them to turn around.”
Neither of the men is advocating for the Meeting Place to be removed altogether, but they would like to see Denison St reopened to traffic from both directions.
“At the moment it’s a pain for everyone driving around town. Council can still close it off when there is an event on, but it’s not utilised to the extent that warrants the space it is using,” Mr Hughes said.
However, there are those that would like to see the Meeting Place stay as it is.
Commenting on the Advocate’s Facebook page, Kelley Chapman said the area was a vital cog in the town’s social fabric.
“This is place making and a vital social public space which has turned out to be a very successful inspirational venture by council,” she said.
“Place making is a catalyst for building healthy, sustainable and economically viable communities.
“I believe there is even more potential for this space to create a real sense of community for visitors and locals. It’s the front porch of the main street.”
Others say it makes up for a lack of available seating space elsewhere in the town.
“Keep it. (It’s a) great place to eat lunch and great for the art gallery and library. The recent exhibition has had at least 20 people a day using it,” Jack Redman commented.
“Has anyone else had the problem at lunch time (when) Billabong Park is full? Good luck trying to get a seat.
“I love having the Meeting Place as an option and it’s the perfect spot for meeting up with people.”
Council will discuss a recommendation to leave the Meeting Place as it is at its monthly meeting today.