Push to convert Southbank parking into open space

Push to convert Southbank parking into open space
David Schout

A local residents’ group has proposed that the City of Melbourne convert non-essential on-street parking in Southbank into much-needed open space.

As the council released a draft plan to overhaul kerbside space throughout the municipality, Southbank3006 argued that with plentiful parking in the local area and conversely little open space, a redistribution could and should occur.

At the March 21 Future Melbourne Committee meeting councillors endorsed the draft “Parking and Kerbside Management Plan”, which primarily focuses on making kerbside parking in the CBD more “fair, simple and reliable”.

Plans to simplify signage, make layouts and durations consistent, and improve loading zones were all part of a wider push to improve the often high-demand spaces, after a survey revealed that more than 80 per cent of people found it hard to find a vacant space the last time they visited.

The new plan also sought to repurpose, where necessary, excessive, or disproportionate public parking space for other needs.

“We support the conversion of car parking spaces to be used for another function where there is a strategic need to do so,” the draft policy noted.

“Car parking spaces could be used to facilitate important city infrastructure, such as street trees, footpath widenings, tram stops, dining areas and additional open space.”

Locals have long highlighted the need for more open space in Southbank, an issue addressed later at the March 21 meeting when the council announced a new temporary basketball facility to replace the recently demolished court at Boyd Park.

The new draft plan also noted: “Parking within parks and gardens should be minimised, providing only essential access for users of that park or garden.”

In a submission to the council, Southbank3006 president David Hamilton said the plan was an “excellent piece of work” and argued it simply made sense that excess parking in Southbank was converted into much-needed green space.

“Unlike many neighbourhoods in the city, Southbank abounds in both private and public off-street parking, but falls well short of the council’s open space policy requirements,” Mr Hamilton wrote. “Accordingly, implementing the plan in Southbank we would argue offers an excellent opportunity to address the open space policy requirements of council.”

Speaking later with Southbank News, Mr Hamilton said that the move was eminently achievable in the local area.

“These are low-hanging fruit items that the council are able to deliver on … and it’s low-cost. It’s very visible and would put the City of Melbourne at the forefront,” he said.

Southbank3006 has previously argued for a move to low-traffic neighbourhoods, and said the new policy underpinned this idea.

“Our starting point has always been, let’s get a traffic management study and a transport plan for all of Southbank, one which focuses on risk for pedestrians and cyclists and creates low-traffic neighbourhoods. You work on cutting out the ‘rat runs’ — and Kavanagh St has now become a rat run.

“The [council] plan actually envisages that we could use that. So, in Southbank we’re saying it’s a good idea, and gives a policy framework against which the council can deliver.”

Demand for parking had changed in recent years, with a higher demand for weekend parking compared to pre-COVID levels and conversely lower demand on weekdays, something the council sought to address.

The draft plan also pledged to put the customer “at the heart” of the new approach and that, notably, infringement and fines would not be viewed as a measure of parking management success.

The council’s current maximum on-street parking rate was $7 per hour, a rate it has not proposed changing.

Head to Participate Melbourne to have your say before April 19. •

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