EDITORIAL: Kotara’s parking headache

TRAFFIC and parking at Kotara, having worsened markedly in the past few years, seems set to deteriorate even more.

People who live in the streets around the Westfield Kotara complex  have been complaining for some time of congestion, a situation that was exacerbated when the shopping centre cut back hard on staff parking.

By introducing time limits on its own parking spaces, the centre forced shop employees into the streets, a move that infuriated residents who asserted that many of the centre’s spaces were standing empty while staff cars clogged public roads.

Earlier in the year,  Newcastle City Council considered introducing two-hour parking limits in surrounding streets – a move that might have effectively put the ball back in Westfield’s court, requiring the corporation to think more carefully about accommodating its staff.  But residents opposed that plan, saying they didn’t want to be exposed to the risk of heavy council parking fines.

The stand-off continued until this month, when the Homemaker Centre across the road from Westfield decided to follow a similar template, introducing timed parking and cutting staff spaces in part of its area. Given its proximity to Westfield, and the likelihood that some of its parking spaces may have been used by Westfield staff and shoppers, it’s not a surprising move, especially close to Christmas.

It will probably, however, add to congestion and confusion.

The next move came this week when Westfield revealed its latest plan to build an eight-screen cinema complex and a new restaurant and food precinct, while simultaneously cutting parking spaces by 250.

The number of staff spaces will rise from 320 to 340, a concession – perhaps – to angry neighbours. Neighbours are far from placated, however, with many pointing out that the proposed provision for staff still falls a long way short of employee numbers.

Ultimately, the debate comes down to whether big developers should be made to accommodate their employees on-site, or whether they ought to be allowed to extract a subsidy from the public and from their near neighbours by being permitted to push their employees onto surrounding roads.

In years gone by, planning fashion strongly favoured on-site parking provision. But in recent times it has become more common to opt for the cheaper, easier option of appropriating public space, often arguing that failure to provide adequate parking is actually a way of discouraging private transport.

Sooner or later, it seems, Kotara residents may have to embrace timed parking in their streets.  

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