A warden displays a rate tag in the Parkhurst area. The city has conceded that parking will be free in the area. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Johannesburg - Parkhurst residents and businesses are celebrating their victory after the City of Joburg announced that paid parking in their suburb would be phased out by the end of this month.

It will be moved to the Rosebank business district, where it is being welcomed by businesses.

Paid parking was introduced to Parkhurst in 2011 without proper consultation. There was an immediate backlash from residents, who were forced to pay the fees for a full hour even if they simply popped into a shop, and by businesses, which have reported a 40 percent drop in turnover.

A petition was started by people living, trading and enjoying entertainment in the area, with a threat of legal action.

Joburg mayor Parks Tau visited the area last year and told residents that in accordance with the introduction of “complete streets” he wanted people to be able to sit on the pavements and enjoy Joburg’s warm weather, and he would reconsider the paid parking policy.

Chairman of the Parkhurst Village Residents and Business Association Cheryl Labuschagne said it was a victory for residents and especially small businesses.

“We are thrilled the city listened to our grievances and concerns and kept its word,” she said.

Jo Pinheiro, owner of a street café, said he was delighted but it had come too late. “Businesses have been struggling, irreparable damage has been done and it’s going to take a long while to recover.”

Councillor Tim Truluck said he was happy with the move. “We were concerned about the loss of jobs but this will not happen as the parking attendants will be moving to Rosebank, where businesses are welcoming the paid parking to regulate traffic and taxis there.”

City spokesman Virgil James confirmed the Joburg Metro Police Department had instructed operator Ace Parking to terminate the management of paid parking on 4th Avenue.

“This after the city’s mayoral committee in February agreed on a comprehensive parking management approach and plan for small nodes to be implemented in partnership with all stakeholders.”

The decision was based on a parking management study of 25 small nodes across the city done by the transport department.

“Since then, several consultative meetings have been held between Parkhurst stakeholders and various city departments and a comprehensive plan to improve the parking management of the area was developed,” said James.

Residents and businesses said the key problem was the lack of sufficient parking spaces in the evenings and over weekends, but that paid parking was not required during the day.

They also acknowledged that more could be done to protect the available sidewalk for pedestrians and to prevent illegal parking, James said.

The solutions agreed with Parkhurst residents were to:

* Supply and install bollards to protect the available pavement space, as well as to supply and install wheelchair ramps within the next two months.

* Investigate and secure park-and-ride sites within Parkhurst to alleviate parking problems along 4th Avenue and provide long-term parking areas. A survey was being conducted around shuttle services to ferry motorists from park-and-rides sites.

* End the regulation of daytime paid parking along 4th Avenue.

Between the early 2000s and 2010 there was no parking sys tem operating in Joburg because of a legal dispute with the previous parking operators. Motorists had been enjoying a reprieve from paying.

Paid parking was then piloted in Braamfontein and in some parts of the inner city and it has been generally successful.

Parkhurst was then chosen as the first suburban area in which to start the roll-out but the move was met with huge opposition from residents and businesses, who even threatened legal action.

Other areas being considered for paid parking are: Greenside, Norwood, Rosebank, Fordsburg, Mayfair, Midrand, Craighall Park (along Jan Smuts Avenue), Emmarentia, Linden, Randburg, Northcliff, Parkview, Rivonia, Birnam, Rosettenville, Greenside, Illovo, Bellevue, Yeoville, Cyrildene, Melville, Roodepoort, Florida, Lenasia, Jabulani and Alexandra – in the Pan Africa mall.

The Star