Popular Queen Street restaurant Masons of Bendigo has squared off against the City of Greater Bendigo in a dispute over a picket fence, but the city said it’s confident its planning codes will be upheld.
The city’s director of planning and development Prue Mansfield said refurbishments to Masons’ outdoor dining area were not “open” enough to fit in with the “look” of the Bendigo CBD.
Ms Mansfield said the city had met with Masons before Christmas when the restaurant was told the new fence it planned to install did not fit within the Outdoor Dining and Street Trading Code of Practice.
“The height of the picket fence is higher than the code allows and the nature of the materials is more closed in,” she said.
The award-winning restaurant turned to social media at the weekend to express its frustration over the issue.
A picture showing the shop front – with its old black screens replaced by a new black picket fence – was uploaded onto Facebook on Saturday and had received 1,768 “likes” and 246 comments by 5pm yesterday.
Masons had captioned the picture asking Facebook users to like the photo if they were in favour of the refurbishments.
Some Bendigo restaurateurs and fellow Queen Street shop owners came out in support of Masons on social media.
Tim Baxter of The Dispensary Enoteca tweeted the new look was “stylish, cosmopolitan and modern”.
“Codes are always out of date because culture moves faster than regulators,” he wrote in another tweet.
This view seemed to be supported by many of those commenting on the Masons Facebook page.
But Ms Mansfield said the council was certain the city’s code would stay as “standard”, despite popular opinion on social media.
“I’m not interested in likes, that’s just a check box, I’m more interested in the comments,” she said. “There seems to be some people concerned about access.”
Of the 246 comments posted on the original Masons post, just two were outright negative and seven people said they liked the new look but suggested some improvements.
Four of these people raised concerns about access.
Masons addressed these concerns in a subsequent Facebook post.
“Of course there is wheelchair and pram access as per council regulations, yes the space complies with where the area sits on the footpath,” part of its comment read.
Ms Mansfield said she couldn’t confirm if the fences did actually impede on pram and wheelchair access but said the idea that it might was still an issue.
“When you’re pushing a pram, if it looks like they can’t get through a gap they might not even try,” she said.