25 October 2022

'Serious lack of parking' options will put Gungahlin shops out of business, owners claim

| Claire Fenwicke
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Two people outside their shop in Gungahlin

Gungahlin Fresh Food Market co-owner Shamsuddin Shafi (right) and employee Jannatul Mawadisha want the ACT Government to act on perceived parking issues on Gribble St. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Almost four months ago, Gungahlin Fresh Food Market celebrated opening its doors on Gribble Street.

Now it’s considering closing, and owners say lack of government planning around parking is to blame.

“The Gungahlin area is becoming really busy, but I don’t think the government has any plan,” business co-owner Shamsuddin Shafi said.

“Why did you let us open a shop here if there’s no parking?”

Currently, on Gribble Street, you can park for two hours free, 7:30 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday. There are no limits on the weekend.

Some drivers parked their vehicles on the footpath to access the businesses they wished to visit. Photo: Shamsuddin Shafi.

Business owners said the length of parking time is an issue, as well as a perceived lack of patrolling to ensure people weren’t using the spaces for all-day free parking.

They argued this meant there were no spaces for their clients to pop in for a haircut or grab some takeaway, and it was costing them customers.

Mr Shafi and his other co-owners first raised questions about the parking situation when they were looking at the space for their business.

Mr Shafi contacted Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) in September 2021, voicing his concerns about how his customers would carry their groceries if they couldn’t park their cars out the front.

… while others resorted to double parking due to lack of available spaces. Photo: Shamsuddin Shafi.

In a response seen by Region, Mr Shafi was told it was a ‘mixed zone’ and that the current time restrictions were in accordance with approvals.

“According to the EPSDD [Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate] Code, customers/visitors can walk up to 200 metres to and from the shops,” an email said.

But Mr Sahfi said that wasn’t good enough.

“My customers can’t find any parking, and they’re carrying an average of 10 kilograms if you buy meat, vegetables, anything like that,” he said.

“If you want to have businesses running, you have to give them the opportunity to survive.”

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When considering the location, Mr Shafi had been told his customers could use parking attached to a childcare centre behind the complex where his shop had opened.

However, he said parents had found it difficult to drop off and pick up their children as more businesses opened and so the childcare centre now had a boom gate in place.

He also pointed out that a physiotherapist and gym were preparing to open in the area, and there was interest from a medical centre and patisserie.

“It surely can’t be a mixed zone now,” Mr Shafi said.

“We have been really, really suffering. It’s been hitting us really bad.

“This should have been examined from the start.”

Mr Shafi claimed many parks (both legal and not) were taken up by trades working on the construction of a nearby apartment building. Photo: Shamsuddin Shafi.

Mr Shafi said the situation had become dangerous, with some people resorting to parking on the footpath.

He felt parking inspections of the area were also inadequate and needed to become more frequent to crack down on those flouting the rules.

“When they come and give out fines, the next few days are good, but then we’re back to square one,” Mr Shafi said.

“It’s just like the wild, wild West over here … if it’s not monitored, it will lose its impact.”

A local resident had set up a petition urging the government to purchase a vacant block of land between Gribble and Swain Streets to be turned into underground parking with urban open space at ground level.

It stated that the “serious lack of parking” in and around the high-density developments on the streets and Anthony Rolfe Avenue was a disaster waiting to happen.

“Delivery drivers often have no choice other than to park on the path, and it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian is injured,” the petition read.

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Several business owners on the street sent a letter to City Services Minister Chris Steel last month voicing their concerns.

They called for the installation of some 30-minute free parking spaces, extended timed zones to 8 pm, and better enforcement of parking restrictions.

Mr Steel’s response told them it was “quite normal” to allow a short period of time to elapse after a new development opened, which allowed for a “settlement period” to see how the commercial spaces affected parking.

“As the shop fit-outs are nearing completion, TCCS will undertake a consultation with all businesses in the area within the next three months to identify parking requirements along both Gribble and Swain Streets,” he wrote.

“This will initially comprise a mix of parking restrictions to cater for access to the shops and services provided in the area. Ultimately, the final design will be influenced by the consultation process with shop owners.”

A similar response was provided to Region’s questions.

“It is normal practice to allow a short parking settlement period after a new development opens. This allows shops and businesses to accommodate commercial parking spaces, which then influences parking requirements in the area (short or longer term),” Mr Steel said.

“Parking operations are continuing to undertake enforcement along both streets.”

TCCS had also recently installed bollards on one section of the path to stop people parking there, with Mr Steel promising additional bollards were on the way.

But Mr Shafi said he couldn’t wait until the government decided to come and talk with business owners.

“Three months for a business is a huge amount of time, every day counts,” he said.

“We have to pay staff. We have to pay utilities … [the government] says it’s here to support small businesses, but we don’t see any support from them.

“If you can’t provide the support, don’t give permission for the spaces to be used as commercial.”

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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