BY RYAN QUINN
Leichhardt Council is investigating free 15 minute parking around schools, after numerous councillors head complaints of parents being slapped with fines.
Balmain Public School and the nearby Fr John Therry Catholic Primary School were said to be the hot spots for fines,
Independent Councillor John Stamolis said the council wanted to ensure parents would not be punished anymore.
“They just quickly pop in, pick up their children and go home. They just want to go about their normal day-to-day family business which they do every day,” Clr Stamolis said.
Parents raised concerns with council that there had been a recent increase in fines being issued while they pick up their kids from primary school and after school care.
Due to the complaints, Leichhardt Council voted unanimously at a meeting on Tuesday September 22 to investigate implementing 15 minute free parking.
Clr Stamolis said the parents were only briefly stopping at the school and were not taking long enough to justify paid parking.
“By the time you found the pocket change, pumped it into the meter, you would’ve walked in and out, picked up your child and put them in the car. This is the issue,” Clr Stamolis said.
Fines have been said to be over $100 each for parents who are only gone for a short amount of time.
“You certainly wouldn’t want to be hit with one, and you wouldn’t want to be hit with one every week,” Clr Stamolis.
Greens Councillor Craig Channells felt that the free parking measure would not only make things simpler for parents, but cheaper.
“It seemed a simpler solution to me in any case. There were issues around parking meters and getting a fine, or costing you. If you put one or two dollars every day for a school term, that’s a few hundred bucks,” he said.
Balmain Public School P&C President Robert Bennett often doesn’t drive to the school, but said he could see issues arising from use of parking meters every day if he did.
“I think that would be a very practical response if council were to have 15 minute parking,” he said.
In response to the motion, council officers highlighted in documents that parking spaces in these areas are at a premium, and a fast vehicle turnover needs to be maintained, particularly in peak drop off and pick up times.
Clr Stamolis said he was concerned that council might be ‘clouding’ the issue.
“Council is so weathered to parking fines at the moment that it worries me that they’ll use any excuse to maintain parking fines, even so much so that they’ll start hitting parents,” he said.
Leichardt Council has already been offering free 30 minute parking along all of its main streets since 2013.
However, this does not include the area’s local school and after school care centres.
In implementing the 2013 free parking, Mayor Darcy Byrne had said that “people shouldn’t have to put their hands in their pockets every time they stop for bread and milk”.
The council is currently waiting on a report from officers to explore the possible implications, benefits and costs of offering free 15 minute parking.
Clr Channells said the community needed to be engaged when deciding such decisions.
“You also need to talk to the community around that area.”