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ACT government abandons Magistrates car park for tram construction compound

Melbourne Building businesses were relieved and surprised on Wednesday at news the ACT government has abandoned its plan to use the London Circuit car park near the Magistrates Court as a construction compound for the tram.

Kingsize Big and Tall owner Gary Rumble said common sense had finally prevailed. 

"It was a nonsensical decision in the first place, so as a retailer I'm delighted," he said. "As I said to Capital Metro, business conditions are tough enough, particularly in the city."

Mr Rumble said he had been resigned to the construction compound going ahead. 

"I've been battling along with other retailers on various fronts to try and get this thing stopped and everywhere we went we ran into roadblocks," he said. 

"It should never have got to where it got to in the first place. It was really half baked and it wasn't well thought through, why would you put that there and disrupt a whole business community for the sake of a compound?"

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The government had initially planned to close the Magistrates Court car park during the four-year construction of the light rail line, using it for vehicles and equipment. After dismay from businesses in the Melbourne Building, the plan was scaled back to using just half the car park.

But now it has been abandoned altogether. Instead, the government will use an area near the Olympic Pool in the city, Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell announced on Wednesday. It will also use part of the visitor information centre on Northbourne Avenue, with the centre being moved to Regatta Point.

The about-turn came too late for one business, with Cataldo's hairdressing already deciding that the construction compound was a disruption too far. The family business is moving across Northbourne Avenue to a spot not far from the Canberra Centre. But Emilio Cataldo nevertheless welcomed the car park decision.

Pasquale Trimboli, owner of Mezzalira restaurant, said the government had made an "intelligent decision" and listened to concerns. "It's fantastic news and very welcome," he said.

​The government had already applied for and received works approval with the National Capital Authority to remodel the London Circuit car parks opposite the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings. With 68 fewer parks outside the Magistrates Court, it was creating 93 extra parks in the Canberra Theatre car park. It was also planning to extend the theatre car park on to the grassed hill behind, next to Vernon Circle. Forty-five trees would have been removed in the remodelled areas.

But Mr Corbell said none of the changes would go ahead.

Mr Corbell said Capital Metro had responded to concerns from tenants of the Melbourne and Sydney buildings.

A storage compound would now be at the Canberra Olympic Pool car park – in the same space being used at the moment for the Constitution Avenue roadworks. A smaller site office would be in the visitor information centre.

"The Canberra Olympic Pool car park site is currently occupied by the contractor working on the Constitution Avenue upgrade works. Using that existing compound will be the least disruptive to the Canberra community," he said.