A WICKHAM business has become the reluctant face of the city’s parking woes, forced to leave because it can no longer afford to worry about where to park.
Solar electricity retailer Urth Energy has revealed it will move its 30 employees out of Wickham next year – likely to Lake Macquarie – where it is easier to find a park.
The retreat comes amid increasing tension between office workers, tradesmen and residents, who are all vying for a shrinking number of spaces in the west end.
Urth Energy director Richard Hermens said his company did not want to leave the city, but it saw no other option.
Unfortunately, we've been forced out.
“We don’t want to leave Newcastle – we were born and bred here,” he said. “But, unfortunately, we’ve been forced out. We can’t afford to keep worrying about where to park all the time.”
Mr Hermens is not alone. During a door-knock by the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday, many Wickham businesses and residents said the same thing: the parking problem is at breaking point.
The issue got worse earlier this year when work began on the Wickham interchange, and a neighbouring high-rise development, flooding the suburb with tradesmen. Next year, up to 800 car spots in nearby Honeysuckle will be swallowed up by major building projects.
“When that happens, it’s just going to make it harder again,” Mr Hermens said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I support local development. It’s great to see the place going ahead, but there doesn’t seem to be any plan. All these [developments] need to be taken into context.”
The businessman said it was unreasonable to accept everyone could catch public transport.
“We’ve tried,” Mr Hermens said.
“We’ve encouraged staff to car pool, we’ve had some riding their bikes to work, but we can’t do it every day of the week. It’s easy to say, ‘don’t drive your car’ – but people’s lifestyles have to match.”
Grey Street resident Winsome Rose said office workers virtually “owned” the suburb’s streets during the working week.
“From 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, it’s all their’s,” Ms Rose told the Herald.
“It’s getting harder and harder for us, but you can’t blame the office workers because they have nowhere to go. Something needs to be done.”
Union Street panel beater Lincoln Haynes agreed, saying businesses felt “targeted” instead of helped.
“The parking rangers are relentless,” he said. “We should be able to park out the front of our own shop, but we can’t even do that.”
Albion Hotel publican Brian McDermott, however, saw the positives of having a well-populated suburb, saying: “I see the problems, but my glass is half-full.”