A car park that doesn’t exist is at the centre of a dispute among residents and business owners in Bungendore.
The car park, which has been earmarked for a site behind Malbon Street (also the Kings Highway) and Butmaroo Street, is also the town’s only green space.
Some residents say they want the green space to be a vibrant community area that links the town’s shopping precincts. Nearby shop owners want a car park so that more people can stay for longer than just a coffee stop.
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council first advertised the car park on 5 August last year, saying that public consultation “will guide us in ensuring that it meets the requirements of the community” and that the design will ensure that the car park can be extended as demand grows.
Some long-time residents say there are plenty of places to park in the town and want the area to become a green space. They also say that the Council has failed to provide enough time for a proper consultation process.
Concerned Bungendore resident Julie Prater made a submission to Council against the car park and told Region Media it is one of many issues facing the town which has grown substantially in the past two years.
The town’s population is more than 4600 (as of 30 June 2019). The town’s major planning document, the draft Bungendore Structure Plan, shows three growth scenarios for Bungendore during the next 30 years – a steady growth rate meaning 5000 residents by 2048, a medium growth scenario of 7000 residents by 2048 and a high growth scenario of 12,000 residents by 2048.
However, Mrs Prater said many community members want to keep the green space for markets and other uses.
“We know there are car parking issues in Bungendore, but the Council could do other things than make the area into a car park. If it was a green space, the community could have market space and people could go and sit there and read a book.
“This is not all about people coming through to the coast. It should be what the community wants as well,” Mrs Prater said.
A spokesperson for Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council said the project is being divided into two stages and that only the design of the first stage had been completed.
Stage one will include 68 vehicle parking spaces, three accessible (disabled) spaces, electric vehicle charging points, as well as an allowance to connect to 11 additional spaces on private land at the rear of 35 Ellendon St and public toilets.
Stage 2 would include a further 63 spaces.
Both stages would include footpath connections to surrounding streets and infrastructure such as electrical and water connections that could allow the car park to be used for other purposes such as markets.
Council also purchased land in 2007 and 2012 to allow for stage one of the project. The land was zoned as ‘special purpose’ in 2014, which allows a car park to be constructed on the site. Council also owns a right of carriageway for vehicle access through 33 Ellendon Street.
The QPRC spokesperson said 46 comments were received on the proposed design and the majority of submissions were in favour of the car park.
“Council has resolved to proceed to construct the car park following the community consultation.
“The project is part of the 2019/20 delivery plan and Council has not resolved to delay the progress of the car park.
“Council will continue to address concerns raised by the community as the project progresses,” the spokesperson said.
Council also said funds for the car park, which is estimated to cost $2.5 million, have already been allocated from loans in its 2020/21 operational plan.
Council does not yet own the land for stage two, but said rates will not change to meet the loan repayments.
Bungendore resident Andrew Riley said he was delighted to see the car park proceeding.
“With many businesses under stress, firstly from the fires, then the COVID restrictions, this development will provide infrastructure that can only help as passing traffic returns,” Mr Riley said in a letter to the editor of the Regional Independent newspaper.
However, Mrs Prater said a 130-space car park is not needed and Council hasn’t properly consulted with locals on what the community wants.
She said the proposal by the Bungendore Residents’ Group is to keep the village green space for functions and community use but also include some car park spaces, which allow for safe passage between the two shopping hubs on Malbon and Gibraltar streets.
“It is the perfect spot to sit and contemplate amongst already established gardens with roses, hedges and old trees,” Mrs Prater said. “It’s something most villages, towns and cities could only dream of, and we could lose before anyone, except council, knows it exists.”
“A 130-space car park would be a tragedy of unrealised potential for a vibrant village.”