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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Madeline Link

Charlestown Square parking fees 'gouge' $1000 a year from workers: union

Charlestown has been identified as a strategic centre in Lake Macquarie as the council works to allay parking fears. Picture by Simone De Peak

LAKE Macquarie council will write to the owner of Charlestown Square, the NSW Planning Minister and take a closer look at its own policies after public submissions on a plan for the CBD raised issues with the price and lack of parking.

The council approved its area plan for Charlestown at Monday's meeting, designed to encourage high-density housing, increase parking turnover and encourage private investment to take CBD growth to the next level.

At public forum, trade union SDA Newcastle organiser Deborah Dunning said more needed to be done to reduce parking fees which "gouge around $1000 per year from the pockets of low paid workers" who can "ill afford to lose any more money".

"Authorities believe workers should use more public transport, while that may seem like an obvious choice, it isn't viable for our members of the community with poor or non-existent public transport infrastructure, which has only grown worse over recent years," she said.

"The SDA opposes those aspects of the council report and recommendations that make it harder for retail and fast food workers to obtain safe, free parking at their workplace.

"It is clear the knock-on effect is to change parking restrictions in the vicinity of the shopping centre, it appears likely workers will be pushed further to the fringes of Charlestown CBD to find unlimited parking spaces."

The council decided to have a workshop to discuss parking rates in its own economic centres and write to the owner of Charlestown Square, the GPT Group, about the price of parking for staff.

It will also write to NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully for information on appropriate levels of staff parking in large scale retail developments.

Deputy mayor Adam Shultz said 13 of the 35 submissions received related to timed parking zones.

"Hopefully those actions, as well as the pending decision by the traffic committee, can allay some of the fears of our residents," he said.

Issues with timed parking zones will be looked at in a future report to the council's traffic and roads committee.

Other submissions on the plan also raised concerns with a lack of car parking, arguing new developments will make it harder for residents and workers to find a spot close to where they live or work.

Some argued the council should provide more public car parking.

In its response, the council said car parking is expensive to provide and takes up large parcels of land that could be used for housing, businesses, public spaces or other productive uses.

"The car parking rates for Charlestown have regard for the walkable access to shops, services and major bus routes," it said.

"It is acknowledged that new development may increase demand for on-street car parking in Charlestown."

The council said it has investigated parking supply previously and found more than 650 free, on-street parking spots in both timed and untimed spaces, with an extra 386 parks available at car parks on Tallara and Smith streets.

It also pointed out more than 3600 spaces are available at the shopping centre for a "modest fee".

Previously, the council said it has investigated building a multi-storey car park on the existing Tallara Street car park but the significant cost means it's "not financially viable".

While the council didn't make any changes to its plan with regard to parking, it did make some changes to land use zones and building heights across the centre - including introducing a high-density residential zone to parts of the CBD.

Mayor Kay Fraser said the plan is very important for the city's strategic centre.

"It's one of our largest centres in Lake Macquarie and we know that we can't continue to have urban sprawl, it's important we try to consolidate where we have the infrastructure in one of our major centres," she said.

"We need to make sure our residents are in an area where they have those health services, they have that public transport, they have access to a whole range of things that they need to have access to."

The council made changes to the requirement for buildings to have particular uses on the ground floor in the mixed-use area and added a development incentive clause in other spots - which allows for extra height where better development outcomes can be achieved by amalgamating lots or where a developer provides a pedestrian link in a key location.

Design guidelines for pedestrian lanes were changed to better outline the council's wish for more activated, safe laneways in the CBD with good amenity.

Similar changes were made for Library Lane and the future public square outlined in the plan.

To see more stories and read today's paper download the Newcastle Herald news app here.

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