HORSHAM Mayor Mark Radford and chief executive Sunil Bhalla say there are no plans to convert angle parking to parallel parking in Horsham's central business district.
Their comments come despite both the council's draft City to River masterplan and draft Horsham Urban Transport Plan showing changes to parking in the area.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mark Radford said there were "no plans" to introduce parallel parking in the central activity district.
"There are no proposals before our council to implement parallel parking in Firebrace Street and central Horsham," he said.
"Any future alterations to central Horsham parking would always involve consultation with business owners and the wider community.
"Angle parking has been in Horsham for a very long time. It works and I see no reason to change it. The draft City to River masterplan does not include extra parallel parking in Firebrace Street.
"The draft Horsham Urban Transport Plan, currently out for comment, lists parallel parking as one possible way to improve a limited amount of streetscapes. However there is no plan for full scale parking changes, and certainly no reference to Firebrace Street."
The draft City to River masterplan cost the council $160,000.
It includes the Wimmera River Precinct and Central Activities District technical report; the Horsham Sport Facilities Demand Study; the Horsham CAD Wimmera River Background Report; and the Horsham Wimmera River Precinct and Central Activities District Vision and Masterplan.
The four documents total 303 pages.
Page six of the draft City to River masterplan's technical report outlines suggested parking changes. This includes the suggestion: "Removal of on-street parking or replacement of angle-parking with parallel parking on selected cycle routes".
Page 22 of the Horsham Urban Transport Plan draft strategy outlines proposed parking arrangements.
This includes the suggestion: "As part of street upgrading for additional activation and subject to parking demand, consider converting angle parking to parallel parking to prevent conflicts between reversing vehicle manoeuvers and other vehicles and pedestrians in select streets".
On page 18 of the of the Horsham Wimmera River and CAD Vision and Masterplan there is concept art of Firebrace Street towards the riverfront that includes parallel parking and the removal of the median strip.
On page 14 there is more concept art of the river end of Firebrace Street which also features parallel parking.
Sunil Bhalla said the impressions didn't pertain to any specific area of Firebrace Street.
Horsham city streets that already have parallel parking are Baillie, McPherson and Hamilton streets and parts of Darlot, Pynsent, Wilson and McLachlan streets.
A post on the Mail-Times' Facebook with a link to a story about Horsham city business owners' concerns with the proposed parking changes has received more than 1000 reactions, comments and shares as of December 5.
The council published two posts to its Facebook page regarding parking in less than 48 hours this week.
The first post was published on December 2 and asked for residents to share the opinions regarding parking in the CBD.
"There is no plan for full scale replacement of angle parking with parallel parking in central Horsham," the post said.
"However the draft Horsham Urban Transport Plan suggests parallel parking could be considered as one way to create more active streetscapes in selected places, without reducing the overall number of parking bays. The Draft Plan has been open for public feedback for the past nine weeks and closes Monday, December 9."
The second post was published on December 4 and featured a video of Cr Radford driving down Firebrace Street.
"An important message today is that council has no plans to change the parking arrangements in the main street," Cr Radford said in the video.
"We've had angle parking for a long time, and as you can see, most of the parks in Firebrace Street are angle, including the disabled and loading zones.
"There are a couple of parallel carparks down the far end but genuinely speaking, angle parking suits this community well and there are no plans to change it."
The council speaks
Cr Radford told the Mail-Times he felt compelled to make the video after what he labelled as "misinformation".
"I was made aware on Friday that shoppers were being told the council was going to change the parking arrangements and that's not true," he said.
"I don't reach the conclusion that just because there's an artist's impression drawing on a concept plan that council has a plan to do something. I relate that to all the pictures council has shown in the documents.
"We go back to this discussion about it being a concept plan, the next stage is a detailed plan, and we heard it again at the last council meeting that every precinct will go through a detailed stage of planning."
Cr Radford said the "selected cycle routes" identified in the technical report was quoting from the Horsham CAD Revitalisation Strategy created in 2017.
"It doesn't mention Firebrace Street," he said.
At the council's last ordinary meeting on November 25, Cr Pam Clarke said there were no plans to change parking in Horsham.
"Contrary to what the community is being told and what the media is spousing in the papers, we are not voting on parallel parking our main street," she said.
Cr John Robinson pointed out that there was a suggestion in the Horsham Urban Transport Plan to change angle parking to parallel parking in the Horsham city. Cr Radford interjected, saying the council was not discussing the Horsham Urban Transport Plan at that moment.
Speaking to the Mail-Times, Cr Clarke reiterated that the draft masterplan was a visionary document.
"The reality is that it's still a vision plan at this stage, so there is no detail in any way, shape or form. Once we start consulting with sporting clubs and community groups it will look completely different to what it does at the moment," she said.
"Now it's about sitting down with (the user groups) and looking at it one section at the time. It could take 20 years to get through everything. If there is ever a sniff of money from the state or federal governments during that time, we'll hone into that area and get some good, clear planning done.
"The real clear engagement is now; this is the next step. You need people from outside to look in from above. Us councillors are not the experts, the user groups are."
Cr Clarke said she understood why some user groups were upset by the draft plan.
"There are probably areas that we could have done better, but again it's often a misunderstanding of what the vision is meant to be," she said.
"I know a lot of clubs were upset because they thought it was set in stone, but that's not the way vision documents are done."
She said retailers had voiced their concerns to her regarding parking.
"I've had quite a few comments from retailers who were concerned about parallel parking, which is actually not in the plan and never have been in the plan. There's a picture (of concept art)," she said.
"Anything that is in that plan is subject to consultation with affected people, so nothing in that plan is concrete. We don't have any plans to put parallel parking in, it's not even being discussed.
"There is a suggestion with bike paths and that parallel parking might be necessary for more safe bike paths, but that's not being suggested in Firebrace Street. There are roundabouts in the CBD that really need to be altered to make it safer for cyclists to go through.
"A lot of people have been really stirred up and getting angry, but there's nothing in concrete about anything. There's been a lot of skullduggery going on to stir people up when we haven't even sat down with the retailers to talk about the CBD."
HORSHAM Rural Ratepayers and Residents Group president Di Bell said the community didn't want to see any reduction in parking anywhere in the CBD.
Mrs Bell works at Horsham's eXquisit boutique on Firebrace Street, which her daughter Shana Miatke owns.
She urged people to have their say on the draft Horsham Urban Transport Plan, which closes on December 9.
"The highest complaint we get from customers in businesses is about parking," she said.
"The problem for us is because we're a regional city, we do service a large region and it's extremely important.
"We're vehicle dependent because we don't have a choice and so far the statistics I've gathered from some of the businesses from sales software show around 50 per cent of all their customers are outside postcodes 3400 and 3401."
Mrs Bell said the group was thinking of submitting its petition, which calls for a suspension of all Transforming Horsham plans, towards the end of next week.
The Transforming Horsham plans include the City to River masterplan, the Horsham Urban Transport Plan, the Open Space Strategy and the Horsham South Structure Plan.
"We are getting a lot of response so it might not be until after that," Mrs Bell said.
"I think people are just overwhelmed by all the things that have been released in such a short period of time. There is such a thing as community engagement fatigue.
"The Open Space Strategy was released for public feedback at the same time as the City to River, and arguably the City to River was seven or eight masterplans in one. It was huge.
"The draft Horsham South Structure Plan is now out for comment at the same time as the Horsham Urban Transport Plan, the Domestic Animal Management Policy and the Community Inclusion Plan.
"(The council) needs to be able to work their calendar so people can keep up with what's going on and they haven't done that."
Sunil Bhalla said he felt the opportunity for feedback the council provided on its plans was "comprehensive".
"What we have to recognise is that council is a very diverse business, we provide over 90 services and each one of those service areas rely on planning review and consideration and that's what we're doing," he said.
"We considered all the previous consultations council has undertaken (on Transforming Horsham) and we have (consulted) a lot over the years, so the project is about putting all the strategies together, see where the gaps were in the knowledge have targeted consultation to close those gaps and put the plan out."
Mr Bhalla echoed Cr Radford's view that the artist impressions of parallel parking on Firebrace Street in the draft plan was not to be considered as part of the council's actual plans.
"There is a lot of further engagement and consultation as part of the schematic designs, concept and interim designs, and if there is anything to be considered - they will all be part of that consultation process," he said.
"There is so much detail in these things, but where we stand now there is no plan to increase parallel parking in the CBD.
"All it's saying is similar ideas have been used in other places - Mildura has revitalised its waterfront successfully.
"There is another picture which shows steps on the riverfront. The frontage of the Wimmera River is flat as anything so we wouldn't need steps there."
At the council's November 25 meeting, councillors passed a motion to amend the draft City to River masterplan to reflect feedback from residents and groups, and divide the plan into sub-precincts.
Cr Robinson said he would put forward a motion to rescind that decision at the council's next ordinary meeting on December 16. Mr Bhalla said Cr Robinson had not confirmed this.
Mr Bhalla said if councilors voted to retain their original decision, the intention was to make amendments and present the updated draft plan to the council again.
The capital works summary for the council's 2019-20 budget includes $1.685 million to begin activating the connection between the Wimmera River and central activity district.
This includes re-prioritising "the junction at Firebrace Street and O'Callaghan Parade to enhance bike and pedestrian links".
Mr Bhalla confirmed these works were based on concepts in the draft City to River masterplan, but said no work would begin until appropriate consultation and authorisation had been carried out.
"It is a target we set at the start of the year, and if it can't be achieved by June 30 we will have to push the completion back, but I don't want to compromise on the outcome," he said.
It is not specified in the summary whether the $1.685 million allocated includes any of the $1.5 million the federal coalition government pledged to the plan prior to May's Federal Election. In September, councillors pledged to request an extension to the due date of detailed information on how it would spend the money - to February 2020
The Horsham Urban Transport Plan is out for public comment on the council's website until December 9.
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