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New parking plan in the works for Shepparton CBD

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Recent community frustration about parking in the Shepparton CBD has inspired the town's business group to act and create a new plan in time for Christmas trade. 

Prominent businessman and Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry president John Anderson said change was vital to combat the recent spate of negative parking experiences.

Mr Anderson said a new subcommittee had been formed - dedicated to researching ways to attract shoppers to the CBD without removing the parking meters.

The new plan could potentially see free parking periods within current paid, parking precincts.

"The history of metered timed parking in Shepparton goes back to a time when there was only the CBD mainly bordered by Welsford St, Corio St, High St and Fryers St as the main retail and business block," Mr Anderson said. 

"Some business people welcomed the introduction of paid parking as it meant cars moved on and parks were freed up within the parking time limit.

"Previously there were people parking all day outside major business areas."

Mr Anderson said the development of major shopping precincts with unlimited free parking and the recent appointment of new parking officers had created issues for businesses within the CBD. 

"People who choose to avoid paying for a quick trip into a business are now feeling the pain of a substantial fine whereas previously the parking officers were more lenient."

The new parking plan, yet to be submitted to the council, involves using the PayStay app on a person's mobile device and different free parking zones throughout the CBD.

"The plan would be to work with council if it is accepted and to have several zones with different free rates," Mr Anderson said.

"For example, Fryers St being a high turnover parking area could be free for the first half hour allowing banking or collecting a takeaway coffee.

"A fringe area such as Nixon St or Welsford St could also be free for the first hour."

Mr Anderson said five-hour off street parking spots such as High St or Edward St could be free for the first three hours.

"Likewise, the same could apply to the multi-deck car park if the owners approved," he said. 

"This would allow people to do business or shop and gain the benefit of free parking for a certain time."

Mr Anderson believes the plan could provide a compromise between those advocating for removing parking meters and the need to keep car parks turning over in the CBD.

"I have demonstrated the PayStay App to many people who have the correct phone but haven’t set the system up," he said.

"The last time I picked up a coffee, the PayStay App charged me 5 cents.

"How good is that?"

Mr Anderson said the new app meant there would be no fines for people quickly visiting the CBD and running errands.

"It is also my belief that the parking officers could be counselled to show a better demeanour when moving around the city," he said. 

"The parking officers don’t know who is simply running to drop off a parcel or collect a coffee.

"They simply see a car with unpaid parking, PayStay alleviates that risk."

However, he does believe the app needs refining, a task the chamber is planning to discuss with council. 

He is also suggesting smaller fines for those who accidentally select the wrong number plate on the app as a "goodwill gesture".

"$83 is a huge fine when it can be proved the intention was to pay for the parking and in fact the payment was made but just with the wrong car details," he said. 

Mr Anderson is calling for the change to be implemented before December.

"Proper use of a new parking method with the possibility of zones with different rates of free parking would go a long way to revitalising Shepparton," he said. 

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O'Keeffe said although she had not been presented with any proposal from the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there had been informal discussions on the issue. 

"There are ongoing conversations regarding parking," Cr O'Keeffe said.

"The revitalisation of the CBD is a priority and we need to look at opportunities to the increase visitation."

The Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry will present its plan to the council after its annual general meeting later this month. 

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