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04 Dec

Premium parking spaces are being used by workers, not shoppers, in Newcastle’s east end

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AVAILABILITY: Businesses argue free parking spaces in the east end on Saturdays are making it difficult for customers and visitors to easily access the area.

FOLLOWING the decision at last Tuesday night’s council meeting to reject a proposal to trial thereintroduction of paid parking in Newcastle’s east end, the Newcastle Now BusinessImprovement Association will continue to advocate on behalf of business owners to improveparking conditions and work with Newcastle City Council to drive action.

Despite the decision, Newcastle Now and many traders still strongly believe the trial represented the best interests of businesses.

Newcastle Now facilitates a Precinct Advisory Group program where businessrepresentatives meet to discuss issues and parking isalways on the agenda. There are 393 businesses in the east end and almost all receive meeting invitations and minutes, and the opportunity to have a voice.It is disappointing that a few owners who are not active in the program contacted councillors to say they did not support the trial. However, we will respond to requests tosurvey all business owners and will use our volunteer City Ambassadors to conduct surveys and ensure they have the right information.

Parking in the east end is currently free on weekends which results in on-street parkingspaces being used by long-term parkers. Workers generallyarrive early and take the parks convenient to their workplace, leaving fewer parks for visitorsand shoppers. Because paid parking applies in other areas of the city centre, workers fromthese precincts are parking their vehicles in the east end to avoid the on-streetfees. The ultimate losers are the east end businesses as those valuable on-street parks arebeing taken, making it more difficult for visitors and shoppers to find a convenient park.

According to local retailer Colin Scott, owner of Frontline Hobbies, the arrangementof free street parking on the weekend has diminished his weekend trade.

“By 8.30am on a Saturday all street parking is taken up by workers occupying spaces outsidetheir businesses,” he said. “They then stay for the day because the parking is free and not adequatelypatrolled.”

Newcastle Now’s proposal was to trial the reintroduction of paid on-street parking onSaturdays between 9am and 12pm, bringing the east end precinct in line with the west end,civic precinct and honeysuckle, where paid parking is already in place.

To assist inner city workers during the trial period we proposed opening the council-owned mall car park on Saturdays free of charge for the three-month trial. Thiswould give workers and shoppers the opportunity to park for free and open the premiumspaces for those who prefer convenience.

The report prepared by council’s Planning and Regulatory Unit stated that a $5 flat ratewould be introduced for the second and third months of the trial. Newcastle Now was notgiven the opportunity to see this report and we did not support this$5 fee. We believe the revenue from on-street parking should be used to fund the opening ofthe mall car park and reprogramming the meters, making the trial cost neutral.

In line with an extensive parking study funded jointly by the council and Newcastle Now our long-term objective is to see free 15 minute parking across the city, then a nominal fee thereafter,up to three hours. If a vehicle stays over three hours, they pay an inflated rate. Research shows 2-3 hours is the optimum time forshoppers so we need to encourage a‘churn’ of premium parks.

This trial was intended to inform the wider parking strategy and as Newcastle growsup so must our attitudes toward parking.

Edward Duc is the chair of the Newcastle Now Business Improvement Association

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