Ballarat councillors say the parking plan is not done and dusted just yet, with a new proposal for two free hours of parking across the CBD.
A number of councillors have told The Courier there are alternative plans they will raise at the February 20 council meeting.
It follows the release of the officer’s preferred parking plan on Monday, which touted 30 minutes free parking in the centre of Ballarat’s CBD, before a staggered pricing plan in Zone 1.
It will cost $2 per hour up to three hours, with residents and visitors having to pay $4.50 per hour for parking during three to six hours, and $6 per hour for any time after six hours.
Councillor Ben Taylor said the “discussion was ongoing” and one option not included in the council agenda was two hours free parking across the CBD.
He said this would mean residents could park in one area, like in the hospital precinct, for some time before being able to move to Sturt Street or to the Bridge Mall.
It would be around $20 to park in Zone 1 all day after that.
“People want convenience and flexibility, and this option of two hours free parking across the CBD could give it to them,” Cr Taylor said.
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He said the councillor group had also “briefly” discussed the potential of free parking all the time in the CBD, but “pretty quickly it was agreed it wouldn’t be solving the problem” of vehicle turnover.
The parking plan has been under consideration since 2015, with a broad proposal to create more than 4,300 new paid car parks last year causing public outcry in June.
Councillor Des Hudson said it was “a real possibility” that councillors would seek to delay a decision on the parking plan again, until there is clarity around where free parking will be.
Labor made an election promise of $14 million to create 1000 more free car parks in the CBD, including ‘a number’ of multi-deck car parks. Ballarat MP Jaala Pulford said last week the position of those free car parks would not be known until the end of the year.
“Late last year, I was getting the sense there was some urgency around this plan, but don’t see the reasons to rush … we need to come up to with a plan and solution we’re comfortable with and residents are comfortable with, and I don’t quite think we are there yet,” Cr Hudson said.
I still see the parking issue as one the biggest, if not the biggest issue we’ve had to resolve in my 17 years of being a councillor. No matter what you do, there will be a ripple effect further out.Councillor Des Hudson
Cr Hudson noted that for those coming into the CBD to work in hospitality and retail, for the “affordability of what parking is to go to such extreme amounts” of $30 a day, it could plunge weekly budgets into turmoil.
“We don’t want to be further impacting on their cost of living,” he said.
Cr Taylor said he was “surprised” there was only one option included in the council’s meeting agenda, posted online on Monday, as multiple options had been discussed in detail over weeks and months.
“I think the officers have jumped the gun here, I would have preferred to wait until we knew what was happening with the state government’s $14 million,” Cr Taylor said.
In a statement posted online, City of Ballarat’s director of infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo said “some Councillors may have their own ideas to put forward” following conversations with the community.
“These recommended options are but one of the avenues available to the Councillors to discuss and debate before making a decision,” he said.
It follows Mr Demeo admitting this morning he incorrectly briefed the media on the costs of parking in Zone 1 on Monday, telling The Courier he was “under-prepared”.
“I’ve made it clear there is absolutely no fault from a journalistic perspective, in that the advice that I provided was incorrect,” he said.
In a statement posted online late Tuesday, City of Ballarat Chief Executive Officer Justine Linley stated:
"The Officers' Recommendation in the Smarter Parking Plan report before Council is just that, a recommendation only, and Councillors may well look to submit and advocate alternative approaches, options and positions to deliver the best parking outcome for the City taking into consideration a wide range of views not just the advice from the organisation. This is a fair and reasonable and transparent approach for Councillors to take and is part of the democratic process."
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