Commerce Ballarat has called for a return to paid parking in Ballarat's CBD, as businesses begin to return to normal trading.
Council changed all parking to free in late March, disabling the recently-installed parking meters in the CBD and near the hospital.
At the time, mayor Ben Taylor said in a statement council wanted to encourage people to stay home, and "we also don't want to put any further extra financial burden on our residents, including the few extra dollars motorists are putting in the parking meters when there are far more important issues to be worrying about," he said.
"Our front line health care workers are the people going to work every day and putting themselves on the line for their community and we need to make sure they are as well supported as possible."
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However, as restrictions begin to ease, residents are noticing it's becoming harder to find a park in high-traffic areas like Armstrong Street - and some businesses are concerned this could affect customers coming in when they're needed most.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said businesses were in a recovery phase, and needed support - an easy way to do that would be to increase parking turnover, by bringing back paid parking.
"We're asking the city to please turn the meters back on as soon as possible," she said.
"Currently we've got a lot of people parking in the CBD all day in front of their offices or places of work, and it's meaning their customers can't get to them - we need that turnover."
She said Commerce supported a full return, not staged, to avoid confusion.
"Initially (before the Smarter Parking system was rolled out) Commerce Ballarat advocated for 15 minutes free, time limits to remain, and a higher cost for all day parking, but this is the system we have now, so we have to work within it," she said.
"Council decided to do the first hour free and no time limits.
"They have invested in this system - the last thing we need is to take any focus away."
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However, recent changes, like re-introducing free 10-minute drop-off zones in front of some businesses, have been welcomed.
Cr Taylor said in a statement feedback on those changes had been positive so far.
"Ten-minute parking zones were temporarily introduced in strategic CBD locations to help businesses with quick drop-offs, and pick-ups and easy customer access specifically in response to an identified need during COVID-19," he said.
However, he declined to say when paid parking in the CBD will return.
"The City of Ballarat is currently engaging with businesses, community and stakeholders to develop a strategy to return to the Smarter Parking Plan that existed prior to the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions," he said.
"As the CBD becomes busier, there is an increased focus on how we can help reactivate and stimulate it. The Smarter Parking Plan is one such measure we are considering."
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