Parking shortfall worries business

BUSINESSES in East Fremantle are worried a restored Royal George Hotel will harm their trade after recently discovering there isn’t a single parking bay for most of the proposed commercial activities.

While Saracen Properties will provide up to two parking bays for the 23 apartments slated to go behind the George, it was given an exemption for the heritage-listed hotel itself when planning minister Rita Saffioti signed off on a rezoning two years ago; director Joel Saraceni told the Herald on Thursday 11 of the proposed 52 parking bays would be set aside for hotel visitor parking and they were working with the council to find more. 

Peter Unsworth owns the Brush Factory next door and says parking is already at a premium in the busy town centre.

He says Saracen’s plans to create a 10-room hotel, restaurant, bar, distillery and cellar retail created the potential to attract up to 700 people each day, and he fears his tenants’ customers might go elsewhere if they can’t find anywhere to park.

“I am not against apartments, I built some next door and they were three levels and I had to fight like hell to get them approved,” Mr Unsworth said.

“But then I had to provide parking for all of the commercial tenancies.”

After forking out a small fortune to provide that parking, he says it creates an uneven playing field if Saracen can lease out its spaces without having to provide a single bay.

Mr Unsworth believes the clause in the scheme Saracen is relying on is being misinterpreted. 

It allows parking to be reduced if it would create an ugly development, but he says that shouldn’t be taken as meaning they can ditch every bay.

He’s also dark the parking situation wasn’t made clear during the consultation period, meaning it’s come out of the blue for many traders and residents who are now fighting a rear-guard action following the close of submissions.

It’s not in the “frequently asked question” section of the development’s website.

Property owner Wade Anderson was one of those who only found out when Mr Unsworth brought it to his attention, and now he’s hopping mad.

“I’m excited about the development, but my issue is the car parking,” Mr Anderson said.

He says there’s a big block of empty land at the other end of an underpass that runs pretty much straight from the George’s front door and under Stirling Highway.

It’s currently used by dog walkers as it’s been set aside by Main Roads for a future expansion of the highway.

“But there’s an enormous area there; they could walk the dogs, expand the highway and have some parking there,” Mr Anderson said.

“We have to get that through to Main Roads.”

Mr Unsworth said that avenue had been pursued and the department was unwilling to budge.

Resident Tahlia Walsh said the only reference to the hotel’s lack of parking was in a thick, dense traffic impact statement. She came across it after agreeing to wade through the report as part of a community submission.

Not representative

“And it was then that we realised that the proposal is being supported by a traffic assessment that was done in 2018, on a Tuesday, during winter,” Ms Walsh said.

“So that’s not representative of what we’re dealing with these days; the Brush Factory’s open, theres a whole lot of businesses and small residences that have been built since then.”

Ms Walsh said the small group set up a trestle table opposite the hotel just before the submission period ended to educate people and said it didn’t take long to fill a 200-signature petition.

The Herald understands that most of the 200 submissions lodged against the proposal have come from residents, who fear traffic chaos in their streets and not being able to park near their own homes.

Similarly, in just a few hours a formidable group were ready to muster for the Herald’s photo shoot on Thursday morning, despite pretty bleak weather.

Mr Saraceni said while they didn’t think it was worth sacrificing the open space across the highway for parking, they knew parking was tight and were working on other options.

“We have asked the Town of East Fremantle to work collaboratively with us to improve the number and legibility of on street parking bays directly in front of the hotel and in the local area,” Mr Saraceni said.

“Improving the legibility of parking on Duke Street alone will result in about 15 extra bays being created along this section of the street. 

“We have told the town that we are happy to financially contribute to these upgrades even though it is not a requirement for us to do so.”

by STEVE GRANT

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