Retail senses deterrent

Liberal-endorsed council candidate Margaret O’Connor is worried the new parking technology will drive even more businesses away from the Mall.Armidale’s retail sector yesterday expressed their fears over the electronic parking system to be rolled out in October.
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Following on from The Express’ revelations on Friday about flaws with the use of underground parking sensors in Melbourne, local businesses are concerned that the incoming system may drive

customers away from retailers in the Mall.

Carr’s Newsagency owner Rod Carr told The Express yesterday the technology would be a deterrent to customers and that Armidale Dumaresq Council should instead explore ways to make fines cheaper to keep people in the CBD longer.

“I think any parking charges or sensors that make customers less likely to come and shop in the

central Mall are a real hazard to us,” he said.

“It doesn’t help at all and times are tough at the moment. Council should be trying to help businesses, not hinder businesses.

“They should be opening up and having more parking, not charging people for staying too long.”

Liberal-endorsed council candidate Margaret O’Connor said she was worried the introduction of the system may provide advantages for the shopping centres at the expense of the Mall.

“It may seem like a small thing but it’s just another twist of the screw in the coffin of the Mall,” she said.

Ms O’Connor said she had been told by businesses that a blitz on parking limits was already robbing the Mall of customers and they felt the new system would only increase the problem.

“The information that I’ve got from talking to shopkeepers in the Mall is that it’s just devastating to them, that all the backstreets are now empty and that people, if they want to come to Armidale to shop, they’ll go to secure parking in Centro or one of the other locked- up places at the other end of town where there’s dedicated long-term parking, they’ll do their immediate business and then leave town,” she said.

“Basically, this campaign is emptying the Mall, which is really Armidale’s showpiece, of almost all its walk-through customers and shoppers.

“It’s making it very difficult for people who want to come and shop in the Mall to actually be here because they’re so worried about getting booked.”

Amin Amini, from New England Persian Carpets in the Mall, said that he had not received enough information about the technology to be able to form a strong opinion on it.

However, Dr Amini said he would like to see a cost-benefit analysis of the system, further details on the system’s accuracy rates, when the installation would take place, and how parking will be affected during the installation process.

“It’s not about whether you like it or not, liking does not matter,” he said.

“It’s about what is good for the community.

“If they are better than what we’ve got and will be more efficient and more effective, put them in.”

An Armidale resident who asked to remain anonymous said she was aware that in Port Macquarie, another location using the sensors, CBD parking had been limited to one-hour only, prompting numerous complaints from the retail and service industry.

Council has said the information collected by the sensors will allow for review of parking time limits.

A poll on the ADC website asks residents if they would prefer CBD parking limits of one hour, two hour, or the current mix of the two time lengths.

The sensors made by Database Consultants Australia will cost the Council $807,830 and be installed in individual parking bays, with inspectors then using hand-held digital devices to access information about how long a car had been parked.

Other towns that have brought in similar technology have used it to introduce paid parking, but Council has told The Express it will simply be using the system as a more effective way to monitor parking rather than the current chalking system and to encourage a higher turnover of parking in the CBD.

According to ADC director of sustainable planning and living Stephen Gow, the Chamber of Commerce and management from Centro and Armidale Plaza had been involved in consultation about the parking technology before a decision was made.

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