Review of parking charges is vital says MSP

Stewart Stevenson says the impact on business cannot be underestimated
Stewart Stevenson says the impact on business cannot be underestimated

The impact of new car-parking charges on North-east businesses must be analysed after the first year.

That’s the view of local MSP Stewart Stevenson who has urged Aberdeenshire Council to undertake a review following its decision to withdraw free parking periods from pay-and-display car parks after a bedding-in period.

The free periods were abolished by the Conservative-Lib Dem administration despite costed proposals from SNP councillors which they said would have seen the car parks breaking even but retaining a half-hour free period.

Mr Stevenson commented: “I have particular concerns regarding the impact this may have on the designated Regeneration Towns, all of which are located within my constituency and which have been the focus of much good work by the council working with the Scottish Government to access funding.

“Peterhead BID and business groups in other towns across Aberdeenshire expressed similar concerns at the potential for the town centre economy to be affected adversely by this decision.

“We’re not just talking about people having to pay 50p here or a pound there – it’s the impact the loss of even half-an-hour’s free parking can potentially have if people can get the same items at a supermarket where parking is free, or shopping online.

“It’s a psychological barrier to nipping into town for a short visit for one or two items.

“I’ve therefore asked Aberdeenshire Council to agree to include within their review of the implementation of the charges an assessment of the impact this is having on town centre businesses.

“I think it would be a sensible to include that element in the report coming back to the council.”

The chair of business improvement group Rediscover Peterhead echoed Mr Stevenson’s concerns.

John Pascoe insisted the new charges would have a major effect on town centre businesses, commenting “While I welcome the suggestion of a review after a year, I would hope the council would take action if it found the charges were having a damaging effect.

“What I find quite worrying is that there was no study undertaken in the town to provide the essential baseline for any comparison to be made.

“Quite simply the council used a blunt instrument to solve a problem on a strict accounting basis without giving any thought towards the significant impact it would have on businesses.”

Councillors voted back in June to instead introduce a 50p charge for the first hour and a series of subsequent tariffs commencing in September to make up a £180,000 annual shortfall.

The committee also agreed that officers undertake further feasibility studies into decriminalised parking enforcement which would see the reintroduction of traffic wardens to manage on-street parking across the region.

Under the new parking tariffs agreed, drivers will pay £1 for one to two hours’ parking, £2 for two to five hours and £5 for over five hours.

Committee chair Councillor Peter Argyle said: “I will make the point again that 75% of all our places are not affected by this in any shape, way or form. They remain free and there is no intention to change that. This simply applies to those parking spaces currently covered by a pay and display.”