White Hills businesses raise parking concerns associated with Napier Street upgrade

WHITE Hills residents are pleading for more parking near Napier Street, despite early works on an upgrade that will eliminate spaces.

More than 200 people have signed a petition since it was placed in White Hills businesses earlier in the month.

Once the road has been upgraded, longtime resident Wendy Betts said there would be limited on-street parking at Napier Street.

Mrs Betts, who is championing the petition, acknowledged that the plans were “pretty much set in concrete”.

Preliminary works are underway.

But she believed the consequences of taking away parking outside White Hills businesses, without providing suitable alternatives, could be dire.

“We can only do what we can do and get a change along the line,” Mrs Betts said. 

An artist's impression of the planned Napier Street upgrade. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

An artist's impression of the planned Napier Street upgrade. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The petition, which will be presented to the City of Greater Bendigo at its July meeting, calls on VicRoads and the local government to provide more off-street parking for the retail shops in White Hills.

“The proposed VicRoads plan does not address residents’ safety and access concerns,” it states.

Mrs Betts said members of the community had been raising concerns with VicRoads for the past five or so years.

In an information update, dated December 2016, VicRoads stated that street parking was under-utilised on both sides of Napier Street.

It also concluded that the majority of residential properties had off-street parking, and more than half of the residents surveyed said “it wouldn’t matter if we can’t provide street parking”.

“I’m not sure where they got their figures from,” Mrs Betts said. 

White Hills Takeaway, on the corner of Napier and Hamelin streets, is one of the businesses reliant on passing traffic. 

Shop assistant Cheryl Hayes said the majority of customers used the parking out the front, on Napier Street.

The upgrade includes two parking spaces in Hamelin Street.

But Ms Hayes said further changes to the road network would mean White Hills Takeaway would be surrounded by one-way roads, making it difficult for customers to access parking and dine or pick up meals.

Store manager Raelene Baker was involved in the Napier Street Upgrade Community Consultation Group.

She has – and is continuing to –  raise concerns for the future of businesses such as hers with VicRoads. 

“My argument with them is, where do people park?” Mrs Baker said. 

“I have been all for the changes, but without affecting people and their livelihoods around here.”

In addition to customer parking, she queried where delivery drivers would pull up to unload their goods.

The on-street parking outside her business will be replaced with an extra traffic lane and a bicycle lane.

“I really don’t know what it’s going to do to my business,” You Tear I Repair owner Julie Palmer said of the upgrade.

Her clothing alteration and repair business has been operating from Napier Street for the past 10 years.

Two parking bays will be available in the vicinity of her store.

Mrs Palmer said other businesses were in a similarly uncertain position, and expected the area would be “bedlam” until works were complete. 

“It’s a concern for us all,” she said.

VicRoads said residents would have access to behind kerb parking at various locations along the corridor. 

“VicRoads is working with White Hills business owners and the City of Greater Bendigo to provide options to improve parking in the vicinity of the shops,” regional director Mal Kersting said. 

Surveys and observations of parking along the Napier Street corridor indicated low utilisation of existing on-street parking in areas such as Plumridge Street on the east side of Napier Street and existing off-street parking behind those shops. 

VicRoads stated in its 2016 information update that street parking would be “reduced significantly”, and some spaces would be removed or re-positioned to create space for bus stops and streetscaping.

“These changes will help ease congestion and make it safer and easier for the community to move around,” the information update stated.

Mr Kersting said power line works would begin in early July and take about three months to complete.

“Works between Kirily Court and Willman Court will commence later this year and will include the construction of turning lanes and road resurfacing,” he said.