Parking meters will be switched on in Ballarat's CBD from Tuesday, June 9.
The decision was made in response to calls from businesses to increase turnover, and increased traffic in the CBD as coronavirus restrictions ease.
City of Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor also revealed council had lost an estimated $7 million in parking revenue while the meters had been switched off.
This week, Commerce Ballarat issued a public appeal for the meters to be turned back on, saying businesses were being hamstrung by people parking all day for free.
Walking to the press conference, The Courier noticed several cars driving around in circles, clearly looking for a park on Armstrong Street.
Chief executive Jodie Gillett said it was about time council acted.
"The business community's been asking for this for a number of weeks," she said.
"We've been inundated with calls and emails from our members saying their customers can't get to them - we're not talking about not being able to park out the front, it's not being able to get to them at all."
The Provincial Hotel's Simon Coghlan said the free parking had made conditions more difficult for his business while it was struggling during coronavirus restrictions.
"It's an incredibly challenging time for our industry, and it's absolutely critical that our customers have an opportunity to get back to spending money, so it's never been more important to make car parking available to people spending money," he said.
"Before the pick-up zones were put in, we were finding it incredibly difficult, parks were being monopolised by people parking for eight hours."
The rules for parking are unchanged - as long as drivers enter their licence plate in a meter or on the CellOPark app, the first hour of parking is free, and each hour is $3 after that, with no time restrictions.
People with disability permits will retain the same rules.
Parking was made free in the CBD in March as the coronavirus pandemic led to businesses closing.
Cr Taylor said he had done four laps of Armstrong and Mair Streets looking for a park recently, and understood the frustration.
"We've got a whole lot of people coming back to the CBD - (on Friday afternoon) there were zero car parks available in this area of the CBD, so it's really important we look at those turnovers," he said.
"We heard loud and clear from business about how important it is to have car parks available - people are holding those spots for a long time and not spending money."
IN OTHER NEWS
Creswick Road will remain free "for the short term", he added, and council was continuing to work with the state government to find a place for the 1000 new free car parks promised during the state election.
Following the press conference, a car pulled into a park next to Town Hall, and the driver sprinted to the parking meter.
"Free parking," they exclaimed.
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