With Bangalow paid parking to be rolled out at the beginning of 2018, the town’s chamber of commerce says it vehemently opposes the plan as it will have a ‘negative impact on local businesses.’
President Joanna Millar has echoed the concerns of the Brunswick Heads chamber, claiming that in an effort to raise revenue, the council ignored its own traffic report recommendations that time restrictions be the first option, not paid parking.
Millar says the report by consultants MR Cagney ‘acknowledged that there were no appreciable congestion issues in Bangalow and that people hadn’t been denied access to the village by car.’
‘Even the RMS, within its paid-parking guidelines, talks about paid parking as a “final” option. It says it is necessary to ensure that paid parking is not introduced solely as a revenue-raising device.’
Ms Millar said while revenue for a cash-strapped council seems to be a major motivation for rushing in paid parking, the negative impact on businesses has not been considered.
‘Shoppers who don’t have permits will be forced to front money, and the right change, for paid parking. We believe this will have a detrimental effect on trade and put even more pressure on businesses that are already under the strain of sky-high rents and a difficult retail period.
‘Adding a $4 fee to the cost of a cup of coffee or a haircut will make many think twice about patronising our businesses. Studies elsewhere show a 40% downturn in trade when paid parking was introduced.’
Millar added that there was little confidence that the council would honour its promise to divert money from paid parking into local projects such as pavement repair.
She also questioned why ratepayers should have to front even more money for a parking permit for basic infrastructure such as roads and footpaths. She added the chamber, local businesses and the Bangalow Community Action Alliance, which consists of 15 community groups, would ‘vehemently oppose the introduction of paid parking’.
In reply, Byron Shire Council GM Ken Gainger says the introduction of new parking- management measures next year ‘will result in significant improvements to parking turnover and availability in the Bangalow town centre and will provide a much-needed source of revenue dedicated to improving Bangalow’s community infrastructure.’
He says paid parking ‘will target the increasing numbers of visitors to Bangalow’ to be specifically retained for the benefit of the community.
‘Feedback from residents across Byron Shire is that Council needs to do more to get visitors to contribute to the impact of tourism on local infrastructure and pay parking is an effective way of doing this,’ Mr Gainger said.
‘Council staff will be working with the Bangalow Master Plan Guidance Group to develop a range of projects and delivery timelines to ensure residents can quickly see the benefits pay parking brings to the town,’ Mr Gainger said.
He added, ‘Many people in Bangalow already have an annual parking permit, so they will not pay anything more when pay parking comes to Bangalow.’
‘People with a Centrelink (blue) card or a mobility permit will receive their parking permit free while other residents will pay $55 for an annual permit that covers parking in the entire Byron Shire.’
Who pushed for paid parking?
At its August 24, 2017 meeting, councillors voted for paid parking in Bangalow.
A suggestion by Cr Cameron to adjust parking times in Bangalow and receive a report following a six-month review was rejected by a majority of councillors. Instead, seven councillors supported mayor Simon Richardson’s amendment, which was to ‘endorse the introduction of a Bangalow Town Centre Pay Parking Scheme, which is in line with the existing Byron Bay town centre parking scheme.’
It includes a unilateral parking charge of $4 per hour.
Councillors have asked for a review of the paid-parking scheme after a year. Crs Basil Cameron and Jan Hackett voted against that motion.