ON-STREET parking spaces outside hospitality businesses in commercial centres of Lake Macquarie could soon be used for outdoor dining.
Under a pilot program adopted by the council at its ordinary meeting on Monday night, hospitality businesses will soon be able to apply to have parking spaces transformed into dining areas.
They will also be able to apply to use council-owned community land free-of-charge for similar purposes, including operating food trucks for extended periods.
The VibrantSCENE program, which commences August 1 and will potentially run until the end of May, is part of the council's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is designed to help businesses deal with social-distancing.
But it won't be a fait accompli for businesses proposing to use on-street parking, as the program stipulates 75 per cent of all businesses along a commercial strip must agree to the area being used for such purposes.
MORE COUNCIL NEWS
The council will consult businesses in the area after receiving an application.
Proposals to use community land will have to balance any existing uses of a site.
Mobile food vendors may also be able trade until 10pm, later than the existing maximum trading hours of 8pm.
"Allowing the use of council-owned land for outdoor dining and food trucks in areas that may have otherwise been quiet will provide activation, reducing the potential for crime and improving cultural opportunities, such as the potential for buskers," a staff report prepared for the meeting said.
The council unanimously adopted the program.
Cr Brian Adamthwaite said it was a "creative and innovative" initiative that would potentially make the community "a more vibrant and exciting place".
"This ticks a number of boxes in terms of creating an environment for businesses to be able to work through this particularly challenging period that we're in," he said.
Cr Wendy Harrison asked staff if they had consulted businesses in planning the program.
Staff said interested businesses would ultimately drive the program and the first phase involved dialogue to determine whether there were suitable areas to establish food truck "hamlets" or outdoor-dining precincts.
While no locations were outlined at the meeting, staff said the Warners Bay town centre was one site likely to be considered.
Cr Christine Buckley said the program would "engage a lot of our performers and creative people".
Cr Colin Grigg said: "If it doesn't fly, we can eliminate it."
Businesses will be able to apply on the council's website.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here