Lismore Square Shopping Centre.
Lismore Square Shopping Centre. Marc Stapelberg

Lismore Square's $90m expansion could be back on the table

LISMORE councillor Neil Marks is aiming to revive council discussions over the torpedoed proposal to expand Lismore Square.

Cr Marks has tabled a motion for next week's council meeting to hold a workshop "with the intention of progressing the expansion of Lismore Shopping Square".

The workshop would include consideration of the minimum land footprint required for the expansion, the full impact on Humbly Oval, and discuss opportunities to mitigate any impact a Square expansion might have on the Lismore CBD.

"After the September meeting many of us were inundated with calls from the community to revisit this decision due to the importance of the potential investment into our community and the future employment opportunities at an expanded Square into the future," Cr Marks notes in his motion.

"Many of these came from the business community whom some thought would be adversely affected by an expansion," he says.

"There were many arguments on the night that were taken out of context especially the effect of an expanded Square on the CBD after the March flood, with the reality that we are only being asked to further the enquiry, to look at what it might entail as far as design, roads etc."

"With the greater understanding we have now of our community wants and needs we are in a better situation to make a more informed decision at this time."

A Memorandum of Understanding floated by Square owner McConaghy Properties to enter into more formal discussions with the council about the proposal was shut down at the September council meeting, six votes to five.

The issue of the expansion remains controversial.

An online poll on The Northern Star's web page in September received 65% in support of the proposal versus 35% against.

But opponents are fiercely against the proposal, arguing it would put Lismore on the path of being a 'mall-dominated' city instead of harnessing the uniqueness of the CBD, which had struggled after a previous Square expansion in 2004.

Other opponents have protested the loss of green space in the city's heart.

The issue has divided Lismore's three Country Labor councillors, with Lismore mayor Isaac Smith strongly backing it alongside Darlene Cook, while fellow Labor councillor Eddie Lloyd led the charge against it.

Former mayor Jenny Dowell, still an influential voice in the community, has refused to make her position known.

At the September meeting was councillors Greg Bennett and Nancy Casson - who said they supported the expansion in principle but with conditions that proved unworkable - who swung the vote toward rejection of the proposal.

Cr Bennett and Cr Casson wanted the money raised from the sale of the council land to go to paying down the council's debt - instead of paying for the proposed Lismore Regional Park - and reductions on CBD business rates, which ultimately proved to be impractical.

They remain against the proposal, alongside Greens councillors Vanessa Ekins and Adam Guise, independent Elly Bird, and Country Labor's Eddie Lloyd.

But the council decision was savaged by the State and Federal Nationals MPs Thomas George and Kevin Hogan, who launched a petition in the wake of the decision to harness support for the proposal, which received almost 1700 signatures.

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