With Council preparing to install a new electronic parking system, concerns have been raised that Armidale’s stringent parking limits are harming small businesses.
The new system will see 860 underground sensors installed around the CBD .
It has been touted as a more efficient and effective way of monitoring parking time limits. However, some business owners and residents fear the stricter system will harm a retail sector already battling to attract customers.
Joe Barbato, a local resident and owner of two Beardy Street properties, is among those concerned about the state of the retail sector.
Mr Barbato said in his 50 years of living in Armidale, he had not seen this many empty shops in the CBD.
“It’s very discouraging for local business people because empty shops don’t look particularly good,” he said.
“I would say from the eastern end of Beardy Street, through the CBD and up Faulkner Street and Dangar Street, there would have to be 20-25 empty shops.”
Mr Barbato said he recalled a time when Armidale’s retailers were thriving, but he had noticed the major downturn over the past few years.
“At one time in Armidale, people from Tamworth used to come across to shop here; that’s certainly no longer happening,” he said.
“I think Tamworth has left us behind in terms of industry and retail.”
Mr Barbato said he thought one-hour parking limits were particularly harmful for businesses because they made people too frightened to stay long in the CBD.
“An hour’s parking is not long enough to do what you’ve got to do,” he said.
“I agree with some of the quarter-hour parking, but not all.”
Council is running a poll on its website about CBD parking time limits, asking if people prefer one hour, two hours and mixed one and two-hour parking bays.
In the lead-up to the implementation of the new parking technology, Armidale Dumaresq Council set up a working party in 2011 with staff and councillor representation and consultancy input to look at available parking technologies and advise Council on the matter, including consideration of tenders.
Council has told The Express that since the start of the parking technology process, they had been talking with the management of both Centro Armidale and the Armidale Plaza, as well as the Armidale Business Chamber, stating they were important stakeholders who wish to ensure turnover of parking availability in the CBD.
These retailers and the Armidale Business Chamber were included in briefings about the working party’s activities and Council’s decision.
The Armidale Business Chamber and Armidale Plaza refused to comment on the matter, and Centro Armidale did not return The Express’ phone calls this week.
Meanwhile, the East Mall shopping centre has scotched rumours that two-hour time limits would soon be installed in the Coles undercover parking area.