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Vibrant Streets to bring the party back outdoors


Street festivals could become a regular item on events calendars across the Hunter after councils were given the green light to temporarily close local streets to vehicles earlier this month. 

The move is part of the NSW Government’s $15 million Vibrant Streets program designed to bring more community events to the suburbs and boost outdoor dining experiences. 

The initiative backs “live” music, encourages the creation of more local entertainment zones, and will prevent single complainants from shutting down venues. 

street festival
The Hunter could be hosting more street parties like the famous Cessnock Stomp Festival with the introduction of the Vibrant Streets Program introduced this month. Photo: LSM Photography

Blocking traffic and reducing the cost and complexity for communities to use the streets they own, it is hoped more events will feature in outdoor central locations. 
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) executive director cities revitalisation Brooke Wharton said communities want to be able to easily access and enjoy their streets for social and cultural activities.  
“This package of initiatives creates more opportunities to have fun outdoors by making it cheaper to arrange events and removing the often slow and complex application processes involved in delivering street activations,” Ms Wharton said. 
“Through the Vibrant Streets program, both financial and non-financial support will be provided to participating councils to help reinvigorate streets with music, culture, and dining experiences, and allowing food venues to expand into the street. 
“These activations will help make spaces feel safer and more welcoming and support local employment and business.” 

In 2011 Newcastle hosted Red Lantern Markets drawing crowds to the inner city streets every weekend.

The news could once again welcome large community events on to the streets of Newcastle, similar to the Red Lantern Markets held until 2011.

The Vibrant Streets program includes two packages: 

Open Streets – A grant funding program for NSW councils to temporarily close streets and open them for people to use and enjoy. Applications for councils opened January 2024. 

Permit/Plug/Play Pilot – A program partnering with pilot councils to help reduce the cost and complexity of delivering street-based events through an innovative “local problems, local solutions” model to allow for global pre-approvals for streets as event sites.

In addition to the Vibrant Street program and the new legislation, Transport for NSW has made changes to the Roads Regulations to make it easier for communities to hold neighbourhood street events. 

This includes giving councils the power to approve road closures for neighbourhood gatherings on minor roads – such as a community party or holiday event – without approval from Transport for NSW. 

The second initiative is a new Temporary Delegation giving councils the authority to design and deliver pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, street trees and parking changes to make streets more liveable and better support walking and cycling.   

Works under the delegation can now be undertaken without referral to a local traffic committee or Transport for NSW.  

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