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Parking Madness

Jul 6, 2024

Local businesses around shopping precincts in the Hawkesbury are increasingly angry over ongoing parking issues impacting their operations and bottom lines. Owners are repeatedly fined for parking near their own businesses, forcing them to frequently move their vehicles throughout the business day. 

After years of upheaval due to COVID-19 and flooding, small businesses in the Hawkesbury – the backbone of the local economy – have been doing it tough. Foot traffic is down, and the cost of living crisis is keeping customers away. However, businesses say that rather than looking for ways to assist them during these times, rules and regulations imposed by Hawkesbury Council are making it harder.

Businesses in the main shopping strips of Richmond, North Richmond, and Windsor say the parking rules – which make no allowances for business owners who need to park all day – are costing them dearly and making it nearly impossible to operate on a daily basis. 

Nicola Hayford-Hobbs, owner of Hawkesbury Herbs on Windsor St, Richmond, said the lack of all-day parking for business owners is infuriating. “We have a limited section of all-day parking, which fills up quickly. If you get here by 8:30 am, all the spots are gone. The rest of the parking is either one-hour or four-hour, which means we have to move our cars constantly. This is incredibly disruptive, especially when we can’t leave our shops unattended,” she said.

Hayford-Hobbs estimates that the parking fines have cost her and her two staff about $5,000 over the past three years. “The worst time is Christmas. You can’t run errands within an hour, and there’s no leniency from the parking officers. They don’t care that I can’t close the store if there are three people in there,” she said.

Local business owners have had enough with the parking mess

Other small business owners who spoke to the Hawkesbury Post echoed her concerns. They also said they had raised the matter with the council, but to no avail. When asked about the problem, a Council spokesperson said Council has not received “official” requests for longer parking for local businesses. “Council has not received any official requests by business owners or workers at North Richmond to allow them to park for longer periods of time,” the spokesperson said.

“The success of local businesses relies on a high turnover of parking within customer car parks such as the one at North Richmond. Council supports these needs by enforcing timed parking limits at this car park,” the spokesperson added.

This claim, however, appears at odds with the experience of businesses and also contradicts evidence in an email sighted by the Hawkesbury Post. Hazen Quinn, owner of Words and Pixels, wrote an email to Mayor Sarah McMahon dated June 7, 2024.

“Whilst I understand that you have parking limits for a reason, what I cannot understand is why we cannot pay for a parking permit. For example, $200 per car per year to allow us parking within the shopping centre. You could provide a sticker at minimal cost to the Council and make an extremely healthy profit. I know from speaking to other shop owners and some staff that purchasing a parking permit to avoid moving cars every two hours would be an option most would take. This could be applied to the whole of Hawkesbury and be a guaranteed source of income without the added cost of employing extra parking officers,” Quinn wrote.

Clr McMahon responded that Council is in the process of engaging consultants to investigate the issue, a process that would take at least nine months. “Staff have scoped out the consultants’ brief to undertake the strategic review and parking study for our four main town centres, including North Richmond. This review will take approximately nine months to complete, followed by the next steps for implementing any recommendations. Until then, I can’t provide any further advice other than to park lawfully,” she wrote.

Business owners are skeptical about this approach. “Engaging consultants when they could just issue special parking permits for shop owners and staff seems like a huge waste of ratepayer money in my view. It’s not rocket science,” said one business owner who wished to remain anonymous.

Quinn also voiced dissatisfaction with the current parking situation in North Richmond. “The parking area has a two-hour limit for everyone. As shop owners, and after speaking to other owners in the same situation, we do not understand the need for such extensive patrolling of the car park. Nor do we understand why there isn’t an allowance for shop owners and employees.”

Quinn highlighted the practical issues and financial burdens caused by the current parking enforcement. “Since May 23 we have been fined $360 to simply park in the shopping centre near our shop to work,” Quinn said. “Our cars have been vandalized and damaged, which is one reason we park our cars close to the shop so we have camera footage of any incidents to our vehicles. Other business owners have parked their cars on the street, and they’ve been damaged or had things like batteries stolen.”

Another shop owner in Richmond, who did not want to be identified,  said the local car parks are not evenly distributed in terms of parking regulations and as a result distort foot traffic to shops.

He said Coles has approximately 400 parking spots, with 34 all-day parking spots, 50/60 one-hour spots, and four-hour parking bays. However, the carpark between East Market Street and West Market Street has approximately 290 parking spots, 120 of which are all-day parking. There are 16 one-hour spots and the remainder four hours.

“The (West Market Street) car park has become like a morgue because nothing moves around, we have customers complaining all the time because they cannot park, You’ve got to adjust the parking lot in all the areas and make them equal, so everybody has a chance to run a business, go to work, and the customers to have a parking spot. The way it is now, nothing works.”

The parking issue affects business owners, their customers, and delivery services. “Couriers have to park down the road and carry heavy loads to our shops because there’s no available parking nearby,” Hayford-Hobbs said. “It’s just not practical.”

Clr McMahon’s response has done little to alleviate the frustration of the business owners. “It defies belief that this is still an issue,” Hayford-Hobbs said. “Issuing parking permits is a simple fix that would support small businesses already struggling due to other challenges like flooding. Instead, we’re stuck in a cycle of fines and frustration.”

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