ANOTHER 57 car parks were waived for a development in Bendigo this week, taking to more than 200 the number of spaces the City of Greater Bendigo has relinquished so far in this council term.

The aim is to compel people to ride, walk or take public transport.

With further developments destined for the CBD including a Gov Hub accommodating 1000 workers, new law courts and new centres at Bendigo TAFE, parking in Bendigo has become the most divisive issue facing council.

The council is reviewing parking controls within its Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme, but in waiving 57 parks for a tavern and function centre in Mackenzie Street this week, it still relies on a precinct plan and strategy that are almost 10 years old.

Since then, a transport and land use strategy was introduced that has taken precedence over the Bendigo CBD Parking Precinct Plan 2009 and the Bendigo CBD parking strategy 2008. The former recommends making it easier for developers to ignore parking.

“A provision is made for applicants for planning permits to request a reduction or waiver of requirements,” the council strategy states.

“This approach needs to be reversed for many uses of developments – applicants for many uses within the city centre should need to demonstrate why they need car parking on site.”

Not all councillors agree with council’s more recent approach to parking.

While she voted in favour of the Mackenzie Street development, councillor Julie Hoskin said parking needed to be addressed in the city centre.

“I have serious concerns that this is yet another development with no provisions for parking,” she said.

“The compound impact of this is unsustainable and unfair for citizens in the area who are already struggling in this situation.

“I think council really does need to do something about that.”

Cr James Williams said the waiver of parking is also of concern to the objectors however the location, nature of the business and proximity to the CBD, Rosalind Park, the Capital Theatre and the Art Gallery, all of whom attract many patrons within areas they service are within reasonable walking distance of parking and public transport.

“I guess that is demonstrated during the great exhibitions we have at the art gallery, people are walking up and down View Street, engaging with the shops, engaging with the character, and that is something I think we need to promote as a city,” Cr Williams said.

Residents around the nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral appealed the council’s decision to waive 40 spaces for the proposed Aspire interfaith project to be built at the base of the cathedral site because traffic was already congested.

They failed to convince the VCAT member, who put more weight on the report of council’s expert witness that there was enough parking available when Aspire would used.

Council’s lawyer Mimi Marcus argued that a modal change was required around the design of CBDs that didn’t take into account car parking as a priority but focused instead on scenery and encouraging other ways of getting there.

This week, in the wake of the VCAT victory and in justifying the waiver at Mackenzie Street, the council acknowledged that the “matter of car parking and the consideration of car parking waivers is often a contentious issue in the assessment of planning applications”.

“In the city centre, there are over 6000 car parking bays…in total car parking occupies over 20 hectares of space in the city centre alone,” the report said.

“That is land that doesn’t have shops and offices on it and is not able to be used productively by the community… much of it is dead space.”

In the city, the council has also waived 33 spaces for a hotel development.

In the suburbs, the Napier Street redevelopment has seen parking reduced, despite businesses wanting better provision.

At Epsom, the developer planning additions to the shopping centre asked for a 65 car park reduction, which was granted.

And a redo of the Mt Edgecombe Hotel in Quarry Hill asked for a seven-space reduction.

Residents living around the Bendigo Hospital remember the original proposal for the new building supported 1000 car parks, a number that in reality is half that.