City that never sleeps:24-hour trade plan next step in Parramatta’s revival

Parramatta will become a city that never sleeps if the council passes new rules that would allow more businesses to operate around the clock.

City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Donna Davis said the council will meet on Monday to consider amendments to the development control plan based on community feedback collected in January,which largely called for an extension to trading hours.

“Businesses are really keen to be able to have offerings later into the evening to provide a diversity of offerings in that 24-hour cycle,” she said.

Parramatta Council will vote on whether to expand trading hours.

Parramatta Council will vote on whether to expand trading hours.Dean Sewell

The plan will not change existing operating conditions but will apply to new development applications,with existing businesses able to apply to the council to change their operating hours.

Owner of restaurant Willo Parramatta Steve Jreij has run businesses in the area for nearly two decades and says extending trading hours would help bring liveliness back into the city.

“Back in the ’90s and early 2000s,Parramatta was a bustling city peppered with clubs and restaurants,but over the years,a lot of them have closed down,” he said. “The more businesses that open up in Parramatta and trade longer,the more it will attract other businesses.”

Steve Jreij owns a restaurant with his wife Carmen and says he will definitely trade longer if allowed.

Steve Jreij owns a restaurant with his wife Carmen and says he will definitely trade longer if allowed.Edwina Pickles

Usually operating Willo until midnight at the latest,Jreij wants to trade beyond that time,particularly as the weather warms up.

“If we can get an extension of hours,we’ll definitely go beyond[midnight],especially if it’s a summer night,” he said.

If endorsed by the council,the updated controls will apply to designated areas that have an existing night-time activity or potential to grow as night-time areas – including parts of the Parramatta CBD,Harris Park,Epping,Westmead,Granville and Wentworth Point.

Davis said services such as hairdressers could be made more accessible under the proposed rules.

“The times people are available to go and get a haircut aren’t in the standard nine-to-five hours,” Davis said. “[Extending trading hours] allows people to access services at other times of the day.”

While broadly supportive of the proposed changes,The Sun-Herald spoke with several hairdressers in Parramatta who indicated they wouldn’t stay open later until they saw more late-night customers.

Davis said the proposal would future-proof Parramatta and give businesses the option to expand trade in a way that suits their customers.

“It’s that point of difference which will give them a distinct economic advantage,” she said.

Parramatta Chamber of Commerce president Luke Magee agreed that extending trading hours for businesses such as hairdressers and nail salons would make it easier for parents to access these services.

The new rules are hoped to breathe new life into Parramatta’s CBD.

The new rules are hoped to breathe new life into Parramatta’s CBD.Dean Sewell

“People can put their kids to bed,have dinner and just go out and get the beauty treatment done after the family is sleeping,” he said.

But Magee said it was important to have a sensible approach to regulation that accounted both for the need to foster nightlife and limit noise,particularly in residential areas.

“If buildings aren’t built to a high specification with double glazing and all that,and you’ve got nightclubs across the road,that’s certainly an issue,” he said. “It’s about finding a balance.”

With its robust student population,Davis said encouraging a night-time economy in Parramatta would also give young people more to do.

“People want that ability to jump in the lift,go downstairs and have a great experience.”

“We need to provide those night-time experiences that are affordable,diverse,vibrant,safe and which interest people under 35,” she said. “[Young people] want to go out,go shopping and eating and have good entertainment facilities all in one place.”

University of New England director Robert Field said extended trading hours would also provide additional job opportunities for students.

“When the economy changes and works longer hours,it allows more job opportunities for people as well,” he said. “Extending the night-time economy allows for more flexibility in work.”

While an extension to trading hours wouldn’t directly impact the university,which already opens until 9pm on weekdays to cater for a predominantly adult student population,Field said the update would have indirect benefits such as helping people to avoid peak hours on public transport.

“If you can avoid those super busy times by staying back a bit later,accessing the benefits of extra hours[such as] shopping,dining or studying,you’re not going to have to be on a jam-packed train.”

With a population that has grown 10 per cent in five years,and many living in high density housing,Davis said there’s demand for convenient access to a range of services in Parramatta.

“People want that ability to jump in the lift,go downstairs and have a great experience whether that’s going to their public library,meeting with their friends to play pool or grabbing a coffee,” she said.

Davis said it was important to cater to the diverse needs of Parramatta’s communities but also to attract visitors from other suburbs with its unique offering.

“People in Parramatta really want their diversity reflected in the offerings available to them,from the food they eat to the clothes they’re buying and access to great public art and cultural events,” she said.

“People can go to North Sydney and Chatswood if they just want shiny towns but Parramatta has a wonderful mix of multicultural communities,great parklands and employment opportunities,” Davis said.

While she acknowledged that changes to the control plan wouldn’t immediately translate to a 24-hour economy,Davis said there was a clear appetite for reform.

“This isn’t going to be something that happens overnight,but it will provide certainty for development applications,” she said.

“Our growing community has got a taste for change. They want to see those possibilities and those opportunities for a diverse and vibrant night-time economy,not just across the CBD but across the local government area.

Jreij said for Parramatta to remain the second-biggest CBD in NSW,the city needed to look to places such as New York and London,which have a thriving nightlife. “We really have to look and think big for Parramatta’s future,” he said.

If the plan is approved,the updated controls will take effect within 28 days of endorsement.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories,analysis and insights.Sign up here.

Millie Muroi is a business reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald covering banks,financial services and markets.

Most Viewed in Politics