Wharf Street, Forster shopping precinct

The introduction of parking sensors and a reduction in the time cars can park in Wharf Street, Forster continues to garner mixed feedback from retailers and shoppers.

While some retailers believe the initiative, introduced by the former Great Lakes Council, was a more efficient use of car parking spaces, consumers consider the one hour limit too short.

The introduction of the vibrant spaces program, earlier this year, and reduced parking time was a partnership MidCoast Council hoped would benefit both retailers and consumers.

Vibrant spaces is all about creating a buzz and an atmosphere that makes our town centre places people want to be in, economic development co-ordinator, Robyn Brennan said.

“Our town centres are places to be entertained, shop, dine and catch up with friends and family – and vibrant spaces is all about working with our business community to add some vibrancy into these areas to help our footpaths come alive,” Mrs Brennan explained.

As part of the program, council’s economic development team has been working with businesses in the main street to develop an education campaign to talk to the community about the available parking around the Wharf Street area.

“While there is one hour parking within Wharf Street itself, there are plenty of other spaces where shoppers can park for longer, within a short walk,” Mrs Brennan said.

Mrs Brennan explained the one hour parking limit on Wharf Street was designed to encourage turnover in shoppers, particularly during peak periods.

“Parking times are based around the needs of all the shops, with businesses such as chemists, the post office, newsagent not necessarily wanting or needing longer parking for their customers so it is a balancing act. 

“It's also a case of the closer the car park space to the main attraction, the shorter the parking limit.”

A map of parking areas within easy walking distance of Wharf Street indicates the vast majority is of more than two hours in duration, with just the small strip in Wharf Street itself restricted to one hour.

“The 'linger longer' tag line isn't necessarily just about spending longer timeframes in the main street it's about creating an inviting shopping environment that encourages shoppers to turn a single purchase into multiple purchases.”

Business owners and employees are encouraged to use the all-day parking within the area to leave the shorter timed parking zones for shoppers.

“Council is happy to explore creative ideas about how vibrant spaces can be used to support business.”

But, shopper Jenny Roddick’s is at odds with the policy for Vibrant Spaces and the one hour and 10-15 minute parking limits on Wharf Street.

“If we want vibrant spaces and people to visit and stay in the main street centre longer, then the one hour parking seems to be in direct conflict with this,” Mrs Roddick said.

“I have been told there is plenty of other parking around the CBD that can be used, especially if I want to go to the hairdresser,  which we all know takes up much more than the one hour limit.

“Perhaps an answer to this is to have large directional signage letting people know where the parking is and also any time limits.”

Mrs Roddick also expressed her concern with planned parking changes for the Main Beach redevelopment.

I am concerned that we are also planning to take a lot of car parking away from the beach front and where Beach Bums is located, albiet an under car park is planned but when and at what cost, she said?

“If we limit the parking too much, people may go to other centres such as Stocklands or the smaller more accessible shopping areas.”

Wharf Street retailer, John Mansour from Manning Shoes, said business operators had been discussing the situation with council.

Mr Mansour confirmed there was plenty of parking beyond Wharf Street.

The installation of metres was to turn parking over more regularly and encourage people to move on, Mr Mansour said.