A MAYORAL hopeful wants to make plans for an underground car park at Queen Victoria Market a priority for the city – despite controversy surrounding the site where thousands of bodies are said to lie.

City of Melbourne candidate Gary Morgan wants to create a network of underground car parks around the perimeter of the CBD, including at the iconic market.

The bodies of thousands of early settlers are said to remain buried beneath the site, which was home to Melbourne’s first official cemetery between 1837 and 1854. When the market was extended on the cemetery site in 1917, 914 bodies were exhumed and re-interred at other cemeteries around the city.

Mr Morgan said the existing car park provided an ideal site for underground parking but he did not want to see any graves disturbed.

“This is one area that people like to go and there should be a major car park there,” said Mr Morgan.

“Most major cities have underground car parks and I think it is something that needs to be done straight away to improve parking. We also think there should be underground car parks on the edges of the city at places like Richmond Park.”

Previous suggestions for a car park beneath the market have been met with criticism from historical groups, who fear the bodies would have to be removed in order to create the facility.

Greg Smith, spokesman for General Merchandise Traders Group – which represents a number of traders at Queen Victoria Market – said many traders supported the idea of the car park in principle.

“The market is perceived as having inadequate parking for customers, but the cost of parking is probably just as relevant,” he said. “We would like to see an extended free parking period for our customers.”