Parking gripes aired at Aspire Precinct VCAT hearing

NOT ON: Max Turner and Alan Ellis are part of a group of residents challenging the approval of the Aspire Precinct. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
NOT ON: Max Turner and Alan Ellis are part of a group of residents challenging the approval of the Aspire Precinct. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

The first hearing day of a legal challenge to a multi-million dollar interfaith precinct in Bendigo focused on parking concerns, with a traffic engineer suggesting the streets surrounding the Sacred Heart Cathedral have a "quite substantial capacity" to cater for increased parking demands in the area.

A group of residents have taken their dispute with the City of Greater Bendigo over the Aspire Precinct to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

COGB councillors voted in favour of the development in December, which waived the requirement to create 40 car parks at the site.

Lawyers representing the COGB used expert witness, traffic engineer Charmaine Dunstan, who on Monday detailed to the tribunal results of her independent traffic engineering assessment. 

Ms Dunstan said the two-day trial, conducted at various times on a Friday and Saturday in June, highlighted there was ample spaces available in surrounding streets, even in a worst-case scenario.

“It's about whether or not this site displaces people who would ordinarily park there,” she said.  

“At those higher amenity times in the evening, I'm confident in saying that no matter what council faces in terms of parking issues - there is not the underlying demands in the area by residents to a significant degree that would mean they couldn't be managed.”

VCAT member Geoffrey Rundell asked Ms Dunstan whether the proposal, which will create a function centre adjacent to the cathedral, was decanting parking into a residential precinct.

“If council determined to manage parking this area in terms of permit zones, which I'm not suggesting they do, they could cascade restrictions, for example having permit parking at night,” she said.

Member Rundell also suggested he needed further explanation as to how the refuse collection was going to work on site, as, “we don't want people, presumably, running their bins up and down the street”. 

The COGB’s legal representative, Mimi Marcus, said there was compelling and persuasive traffic evidence that waiving the car parking requirement was acceptable.

“It requires a big modal shift of thinking but it has to start somewhere,” she said.

The tribunal heard the application has an associated liquor license, but no noise limitations or restrictions on patron numbers were in place. 

Ms Marcus said the COGB would welcome an imposition that limits patrons being outside from a certain time or a noise and amenity-type action plan. 

The tribunal heard the Aspire Foundation agreed to make a financial contribution to the COGB for the equivalent of 14 spaces – believed to be $150,000.

For the applicants, town planner Sarah Watts, said when the cathedral is used for particular events the peak was substantial.

“On a day-to-day basis the residents’ experience is parking is heavily utilised in this area. The survey data hasn't captured this. The decision lacks the rigor required to minimise offsite amenity impacts to an acceptable level,” she said.

Ms Watts submitted a number of photographs taken by residents over recent months to detail parking problems, and issues with buses double parking on streets near the cathedral.

The hearing continues.