Free CBD parking trial

A NEW free parking trial in the City of Perth aims to revitalise high streets that have empty shopfronts.

On Tuesday (June 25) Perth city commissioners approved a year-long trial of free one-hour parking on “high streets” in East Perth, West Perth and Claisebrook precincts.

They’re prioritising the rollout to areas that have lots of empty commercial premises like Royal Street in East Perth. It has been identified as a priority and the trial will start there “immediately”.

Commissioner Andrew Hammond moved the motion for the trial saying the city needed to wean itself off parking revenue.

He said a “paradigm shift” was needed, as “for too long our parking revenue has been the tail that wags the dog for the city, and this is creating a real problem particularly for activation in some of our high street areas, where the revenue that we require for our operating activities comes at the expense of quite detrimental parking regimes in these areas.

Efficiencies

“The reliance on revenue from parking needs to stop, and I’m sure with the structural efficiency changes in the city, that can be achieved, and at the end of the day if we can change the financial DNA of the city so as parking revenue is important, but it’s not necessarily critical, and we do have the flexibility and the reduced expectations of parking revenue so as our high street areas can compete effectively with the likes of Oxford Street, Leederville, Albany Highway in Victoria Park, Hay Street in Subiaco, etc.”

Commissioner Gaye McMath agreed: “Driving down Royal Street, by way of example, for a large part of the time seems very desolate and I think anything that the city can do in order to trial alternate approaches of attracting activity and business is to be supported.”

Locals in those areas have been pushing for some free parking for years, but petitions and lobbying by councillors and local MPs have amounted to zilch.

Cr Reece Harley first proposed a free parking trial in East and West Perth when he ran for mayor in 2015, but he was defeated at that election by incumbent Lisa Scaffidi.

He put up a free parking motion in 2017 but only got support from councillors Jemma Green and James Limnios.

The lord mayor and her faction voted it down, saying they were concerned about a potential loss of $45,000 in parking revenue.

With the council suspended pending the outcome of a state government inquiry, commissioners decided they could take the budget hit if they ran things efficiently across the next financial year and kept “discretionary” spending low.

The move’s been welcomed by Perth state MP John Carey who’s been urging the city to trial free parking. He thanked the commissioners “for listening, engaging with locals and doing what the former senior leadership at the City of Perth would never do”.

It’s also been celebrated by community groups West Perth Local and the East Perth Community Group.

When we spoke to EPCG chair Anne-Maree Ferguson last week about the city’s contentious CCTV rollout, she said far more people were concerned about the plight of traders and the urgent need for free parking.

To see if the trial works they’ll be measuring whether there is increased footfall and high street patronage, reduced vacancy rate, improved community safety perceptions and an improvement in “street hygiene and general amenities”.

by DAVID BELL

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