Councillors will next week (Thursday, June 20) be asked to approve changes to tariffs at Pay and Display car parks in Aberdeenshire.
The changes, which have been the subject of extensive consultation, are designed to cover the cost of operating the car parks, as well as supporting town centres.
It includes the removal of free periods, where they exist, though the vast majority of parking in Aberdeenshire’s towns – around 70% continues to be free.
The relationship between car parking and town centres is a complex one – effective management of car parking through a range of measures can play a positive role in supporting a town centre.
A working group of local councillors and expert transportation officers looked closely at the issues in Aberdeenshire and came up with a proposal to remove free periods and alter tariffs to encourage longer stays in local town centres.
The principal issue to be tackled is a growing deficit in the car parks budget which has built up since the introduction of free parking in 2014. Previously there was a surplus of income, but now car parks are not even covering their costs.
It currently costs £48,000 a month to run car parks in Aberdeenshire, with income sitting around £33,000 a month. The projected ‘loss’ this year is £211,000.
The council has made clear that it has a responsibility to tackle the mounting deficit, which would have to be paid for from other council budgets.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Transportation, Ewan Wallace, said: “There is no such thing as free parking – it all has to be paid for by somebody. So any extra money required, for example to cover the deficit in running costs, or maintain and improve them, would have to come out of other council budgets, also under considerable pressure.
“Every option for continuing to provide free periods has been looked at, and the council is between a rock and a hard place, but it simply is not sustainable to continue providing them, or to rely on those who pay for longer periods to pay even more to cover the cost of the free periods.
“All the evidence suggests that what brings people into town centres, in relation to parking, is the ability to park conveniently and easily – cost is secondary to that.
“As such, we have consulted with statutory consultees and communities and councillors will be asked to agree the officer view that the content of the objections received do not establish any grounds for modifying the proposals.”
Changes to tariffs were discussed and decided on by the Full Council in January and local councillors had a full and wide ranging debate on the issues.
The plans then went out for wider consultation and members of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee will be asked to agree there are no grounds for modifying the proposals as a result.
They will also be asked to agree to implement the changes to tariffs, which would take effect on September 1.
Based on feedback from local business organisations, motorists will soon be able to take advantage of contactless payment in all of Aberdeenshire Council’s pay and display car parks following funding from the Town Centres Fund.
The facilities will be rolled out in Stonehaven, Inverurie and Peterhead ahead of September 1 in the first instance, before being installed in other communities with Pay and Display facilities by next April.
Subject to approval by councillors, parking in pay and display car parks will cost 50 pence for up to an hour, £1 for 1-2 hours and £3 for 2-5 hours. The cost will be £5 for anything more than five hours. Any surplus generated will be reinvested firstly in the parking service, followed by other transport related projects.
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