Petty proposes free parking to lure shoppers

Free one-hour parking in Wollongong’s CBD may help lure shoppers and visitors back into the city, a Wollongong councillor says.

Independent councillor Greg Petty yesterday launched a bid to have the council review the city’s controversial parking meters policy, saying he believed a better system could be found.

Cr Petty suggested the council should investigate one-hour free parking periods at some metered blocks throughout the city, depending on their use and turn-over rates. He said there was plenty said about parking before the council election and it was time for debate.

‘‘After council was elected it was uppermost in my mind,’’ he said.

‘‘Ten months later, having walked through the town a couple of times, including on Saturdays, I sat down with a couple of coffee shop owners and it’s an issue for them.

‘‘Everyone had some stance before the election.

‘‘Let’s bring on the debate.

‘‘Let’s get a report and let’s debate it.’’

Cr Petty will move for a wide-ranging audit of parking space usage by street and time in the inner-city, and the results would show where there was a need for more spaces or less charges.

‘‘If we’re currently turning over 120 per cent in a block, then that particular parking would mean less revenue [if the first hour was free],’’ he said.

‘‘But if that particular block is only turning over 50 per cent, we have to attract more people there.’’

The debate will be the first time parking meters, arguably the most controversial thing to affect Wollongong since the ICAC inquiry, have been directly considered by the new elected council.

Cr Petty said it was possible the results of the usage review could have consequences more far-reaching than just the one-hour free proposal.

He will bring the issue to the June 12 council meeting, asking fellow councillors to back his calls for a report looking at how feasible any moves would be.

‘‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,’’ he said.

In recent years, parking meters were blamed by some local businesses for causing a downturn in their customers which led to the businesses’ closure.

Cr Petty said the recent economic downturn in the region, coupled with a large amount of construction work planned for the inner-city, meant the issue of parking needed to be dealt with soon.