IT’S a windscreen label, and its message is crystal clear: “Parking in this area is for Wickham Residents.”
As an example of vigilante justice, it’s at the mild end of the scale. But with more and more cars pouring into the city centre, and with public transport operating at less-than-optimal levels, it’s not hard to understand why some people living in the Wickham area would decide to take matters into their own hands by starting their own “driver reminder” scheme.
Fifteen years ago, there was unrest on The Hill as Newcastle City Council moved to limit the numbers of office workers parking up around King Edward Park. Although it took time, the situation eventually reached some sort of equilibrium. More recently, the departure of the courthouse and other businesses from the East End may have eased the pressure at that end of town.
Now it’s Wickham’s turn, and with the state government and the council both agreeing that an area at Wickham, north of Hunter Street, should be the new centre of high-rise development in the city. This roughly rectangular area, bounded by Hunter Street, Railway Street, Throsby Street and Hannell Street, has no mine subsidence restrictions, meaning that development pressure on residents in the small 19th century streets on the northern side of the rail line is only set to continue. And residents are not the only ones finding themselves with parking difficulties.
Richard Hermens, of solar power company Urth Energy, says parking is the main reason his business is moving from Bishopsgate Street, Wickham, to Lake Macquarie. Of course there is nothing necessarily wrong with a business outgrowing one location and moving to another. But businesses depending on shopfront traffic need a turnover of nearby parking spaces, which will only happen with a carefully thought out, and effectively policed, set of parking policies.
Earlier this month, the state transport agency, Transport for NSW, unveiled some road changes related to the Hunter Street light rail project, and pushed the responsibility for city parking firmly back on the council. Regardless of whose responsibility it is, Newcastle’s revitalisation will only bear fruit if both levels of government are on the same page when it comes to cars and parking.
Yes, Wickham residents may have to make allowances, but they must not be ridden over, roughshod, in the name of “progress”.