Since 2012 Labour has increased car parking charges by as much as 80%.
It has been an open secret that businesses in the City centre hoped to extract major concessions on car parking charges when the new John Lewis development opened at Monks Cross.
Castle short stay car park
Even so, today’s Council announcement that there would be “free” car parking at many City centre car parks between 8:00am and 11:00am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays comes as a surprise.
Nothing is “free”. The loss of income – which would eventually fall on taxpayers – could be as much as £500,000 pa.
Dumping more traffic onto the highways network at the busiest time of the week (between 8:00am and 9:30am) could have far reaching consequences for traffic congestion.
The selected times are also those when deliveries are being made in the footstreets area
Park and Ride passenger numbers are likely to suffer, while many shoppers and short term visitors may well choose to do their business in the 3 hour “free” period, leaving car parks empty at other times of the day.
The Council isn’t even in a position to make such an announcement.
No Councillor or officer has that delegated power (just as the “Labour Group” had no constitutional power to remove the restrictions on Lendal Bridge).
But the Councils constitution and delegation schemes have been thrown out of the window in the last few weeks.
A report indicating the consequences of the proposal must go to the “Cabinet” meeting which is taking place on 6th May
Taxpayers, bus users (who would be delayed by added congestion) and rival car park operators will look with interest at the assumptions being made. The private operators in particular may regard the Councils plan as unfair trading given that the subsidy will apparently come from Section 106 monies derived for the Vanguard development.
With the Council heavily dependant on the £5 million that it receives from off street parking charges, the unanswered question is what happens when the Vanguard subsidy runs out?
A more flexible approach to charging levels is needed and new technologies make this possible.
However, like the Lendal Bridge trial, the plan has all the hallmarks of a badly thought through scheme.
Visitors who arrive back at their vehicles at 11:30am, and find that they have been fined for failing to “pay and display”, are unlikely to be very happy.
The safest option would have been to reduce the charges at off peak times and focus further discounts at identified “shopper’s car parks” such as Fossbank.
The Council should also get on with resurfacing the Castle car park (safety issue) and making sure that the “parking space availability” real time information is once again provided on both their web site and on the variable message boards located on arterial roads.
NB. The Council appear to have missed the irony of issuing, with their media announcement, a photograph of Councillors striding through an already full car park.