PAID parking sessions in Warrnambool's central business district are increasing, despite calls from traders for regularly empty parks to become free to draw in shoppers.
Warrnambool City mayor Tony Herbert said the council recorded an average of 5100 daily paid parking sessions in the CBD in the past year. The number in May was 5300 and 5500 in June.
"The very latest numbers we have indicate that monthly parking sessions are up about 600 on the same time last year as well as being 200 to 400 above the 12 month average," Cr Herbert said.
Those figures come as shoppers and traders point to paid parking as the main deterrent to doing business on Liebig Street amid the announced closure of some main street retailers, including Aussie Disposals and Factorie, in past months.
Warrnambool resident James Langston said on social media that "free parking would help" him want to shop on Liebig Street, while others said they were deterred by "high congestion".
Tracey Togni, who owns homewares and clothing store Phinc, said she received feedback from some shoppers unwilling to visit the CBD due to paid parking, while car parks weren't usually at capacity.
"We need to make the most of utilising the empty car parks," Ms Togni said. "Why don't we offer free parking?
"There's no loss to the council when the parks are empty and we would be bringing money back into the CBD."
Taylors Surfodesy owner Max Taylor, who delivered a petition to the council with 2800 signatories in January calling for free 90-minute parking in two car parks, said there were "a lot of businesses struggling" due to paid parking.
"There aren't many people shopping in the CBD now, to get people back to the CBD we must have some form of free car parking," Mr Taylor said.
Cr Herbert said the council's city centre parking strategy was about to be reviewed and the community would be able to comment before councillors voted on it.
He defended the final result of the city renewal works, which some on social media criticised as contributing to a loss of shoppers.
"The vast majority of feedback I have received is that Liebig Street is a much nicer place to spend time," Cr Herbert said.
He said council Spendmap data showed annual retail spending in Warrnambool grew by $46 million to $868 million in 2017 to 2018.
"Over the same time frame, 'escape spending' which is money being spent by Warrnambool people outside of the city, dropped by $2.3 million," Cr Herbert said.
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