By JUSTIN COOPER.
Woollahra Council’s move to allow 15-minute visitor parking in established residents-only parking spots has the NSW Government planning to veto the decision, causing concern for Vaucluse residents.
On Wednesday night, November 15, Woollahra Municipal Council motioned towards changing over 70 unlawful “resident only” parking spaces around Watson Bay and Camp Cove.
The residents’ permitted parking has been in place for 50 years, however, Council were advised to change the signs due to its illegitimate nature and to allow for visitor parking.
With Council Officers initially suggesting parking signs to allow 1-hour limits, Council successfully voted in favour of “15-minutes – permit holders excepted” signs. This would change parking signs along many roads, including Cliff Street, Robertson Place, and Clovelly Street.
Despite council’s efforts, the state government intends to reject the new limits, considering them as an unsatisfactory amount of time allocated for beach-goers.
Concerns for residents
Liberal Councillor Mary-Lou Javis motioned for the 15-minute parking, saying it was a “pragmatic and sensible solution.” Whilst allowing visitors to park, it will still provide residents with accessible parking around their homes.
Speaking to City Hub, Cr Jarvis explains the significance of still providing these parking options for residents, with many homes not having their own driveways.
Cr Jarvis said “50 per cent” of Vaucluse residents live within flats, including many elderly residents who may find extensions to visitor parking extremely difficult to access their homes.
“We’re talking about 7 per cent of all parking spaces,” she recalled.
Cr Jarvis said, unlike other Sydney beaches, noting Bondi and Coogee having paid-meter parking, there is free parking available for visitors around the Watson Bay area.
Speaking on the recent comments from NSW Minister for Roads, John Graham, who plans to reject the Council’s decision, Cr Javis said, “whatever results is on his head.”
Warnings for congestion
During Council’s meeting, Independent Cr Merrill Witt was concerned about further traffic congestion considering the “unique” conditions of the Watson Bay area.
Cr Witt told City Hub that extending visitor parking times within the area is against previously received police advice and Council reports, that warn of congestion around the small number of roads accessing the peninsula.
Observing a “conga line” of traffic around the beaches over the weekend, Cr Witts says extending the limits past 15-minutes would only “encourage more traffic.”
Additionally, Cr Witt continues to raise concerns for residents being able to access parking near their homes. “We have to be a little conscientious about how much timed parking is made available there,” Cr Witt concludes.
Cr Witt says 15-minutes “ is a compromised solution” that will not let the area “go into disrepair” and preserve “the village-like area” around Watson Bay and Camp Cove.
Calls for a “practical” approach
Whilst the majority of councillors voted in favour of the motion, Independent Cr Harriet Price announced her opposition to the 15-minute alternative. Labelling it as a “kiss and drive” option, Cr Price pushed for the initial 1-hour parking permits for visitors.
Speaking with City Hub, Cr Price said “the practical outcome of the 15 minute option is to effectively continue the resident-only parking.”
Cr Price raised concerns about the motion’s potential of being rejected by the government during the meeting. Whether it is considered lawful, Cr Price said, “it’s not workable and will only add to congestion and more parking fines.”
“The 1-hour option, whilst not ideal, will better balance the competing needs of visitors and residents. The road is a public space and must be managed in a fair way,” Price continued.
Price’s concerns were shared by Minister Graham, who says the NSW Government is planning to reject the decision ahead of busy Summer periods.
Graham told City Hub, “We can’t have one part of Sydney claim ownership over another, barring visitors and creating a hostile environment.”
“The NSW government intends to veto this decision and work with council to find a sensible solution. A 15-minute parking spot by the beach won’t even give you time to put your towel down,” Graham continued.
“Everyone deserves access to our beautiful beaches.”