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RRBATA Meeting Report on the Hot Topic of Parking and New Business in Romsey

The issue of parking costs for new businesses was the hot topic for discussion at the very well attended RRBATA meeting held on Monday 15th March. Rick Traficante from MRSC’s Town Planning Unit attended to brief the audience on the current situation and answer questions. Crs. Donovan. Morabito, McLaughlin and Letchford were also in attendance as were representatives from the Lancefield BATA.

Mr. Traficante explained that the Planning Scheme (under State Government jurisdiction) sets out the parking provisions for new businesses or premises where there is a change of use. If a business is unable to provide car parking off street, then they are to make a cash-in-lieu payment to contribute to future parking provision. Currently, a restaurant-type of business must provide 0.6 spaces per customer and a retail business must provide 8 spaces per 100 square metres of premises area. Each car space is valued at $5000 per space. Therefore, theoretically, a small cafe could be facing tens of thousands of dollars as a cash-in-lieu payment to Council in order to be allowed to trade. The money collected from Romsey would be put aside for Romsey use, he said. It would be used to acquire land in the future as car parking needs arose.

Mr. Traficante did explain that potential new traders could apply for a waiver which would be considered after a traffic survey was conducted (at the trader’s expense). He said that full or partial waivers have been implemented elsewhere. He also explained that, although the Planning Scheme provision is implemented state-wide, the way it is exercised varies between municipalities. For example, the City of Bendigo does not impose such payments on restaurants, but would certainly do so on businesses such as large supermarkets.

Mr Traficante indicated that MRSC is currently investigating car parking practices and reviewing associated policies. When asked about what the timeline for this review would be, Cr. Letchford indicated 6 to 12 months.

Cr. Letchford floated the idea to the audience of a shire wide parking levy for all rate-payers to cover parking provisions.

The key issues and concerns expressed very clearly to MRSC by attendees at the meeting included the following:
• Small businesses are being discouraged and frightened off from investing in Romsey by these potential car parking contribution fees.
• Perhaps the land holders/land developers, rather than the tenant business people, should be paying the parking contribution fees.
• Whilst car parking in Romsey may be a problem in the future, business people feel there should be some flexibility with how the provisions are implemented at this time so as to encourage business development in this town.
• Any review of the current policy needs to be completed as soon as possible.

RRBATA is aware that this issue is simmering in other towns and is high on the agenda of other BATAs for discussion with MRSC. We look forward to working with MRSC to actively contribute to a positive outcome from the current review process.