But Planning Panels Victoria found the level of modelling the council completed to support its bid was “severely lacking” and the consequences were unknown.
In its report, the panel said it was legitimate for Moreland Council to lower rates of car ownership through parking controls.
However, it found the council had relied almost solely on its policy of driving down car ownership and reducing housing costs to justify abolishing minimum parking requirements.
“The panel is concerned that council has not adequately assessed the current state of parking in activity centres and therefore does not have a proper understanding of the possible consequences,” the panel found.
“The panel therefore concludes that the council’s idealistic justification for the removal of minimum parking rates in the activity centres cannot be supported in the absence of a more fulsome assessment.”
The panel finding was welcomed by Fair Parking Moreland, a community group that has campaigned against parking changes in the municipality which it says are punitive.
The council also voted last year to introduce two-hour parking restrictions in streets throughout significant parts of Brunswick, Brunswick East, Coburg and Glenroy that currently do not have time limits.
The new two-hour car parking limits – which were intended to tackle the “spillover effect” of people who do not have car parks parking in the streets – were intended to be rolled out this year.
However, the council says they have been delayed until after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fair Parking Moreland spokesman Shirley Jackson said there had been a lack of consultation around the parking changes and the council had ignored residents’ concerns.
He said a VCAT hearing in 2015 had revealed that some people who lived in The Commons building in Brunswick – which has no car parks – parked their cars in the street.
“The council has made an assumption that people just choose to use cars, when a lot of people need them from the elderly, to tradies, to those who work in areas where public transport is not an option,” Mr Jackson said.
He said while two-hour parking limits might make sense for Sydney Road or Lygon Street, the same principles did not apply in Glenroy, Pascoe Vale and parts of Coburg.
Fair Parking Moreland would like to see the council trial parking changes and assess their impact before implementing them.
Minimum parking requirements have been abolished by Melbourne City Council in the CBD and some inner suburbs and in other cities including London, Oslo and San Francisco.
Liz Taylor, a senior lecturer in urban planning and design at Monash University, said there was a lack of research generally on the impact of parking policies.
“There is no research supporting the conservative approach we currently have,” she said.
Dr Taylor said Victoria’s minimum parking requirements subsidised car ownership and did not address the spillover effect, with her research showing most people parking on the street have garages that they instead use for storage.
Moreland Council’s Director City Futures, Kirsten Coster, said the panel’s report had given the council a clear way forward on what work needed to be done to progress changes to parking requirements to achieve its sustainable transport objectives.
She said a council officer’s report would recommend the removal of minimum parking requirements be put aside and further technical parking survey and modelling work take place as recommended by the panel.
The council will consider the report at a meeting on May 13.
Jewel Topsfield is Melbourne Editor of The Age.