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Councillors move towards scrapping free parking in Peterhead despite U-turn pleas

Peterhead Bid chairman John Pascoe
Peterhead Bid chairman John Pascoe

The free use of Aberdeenshire car parks is facing the axe, despite impassioned pleas from business and community leaders.

Councillors will consider approving changes to off-street pay and display facilities in the region’s towns and villages.

The proposals have been subject to extensive consultation and members of the infrastructure services committee will be asked to give them the green light next week.

If approved, the 60-minute free period, introduced in 2014, to make town centres as accessible as possible, will be scrapped on September 1.

That would mean motorists paying a fee of 50p for the first hour, £1 for one to two hours, £3 for two to five hours and £5 for any period over five hours.

Council chiefs have claimed the “vast majority” of car parks would remain free, but are taking action to close a budget black hole of £211,000.

It currently costs £48,000 a month to run car parks in Aberdeenshire, with income sitting around £33,000 a month.

However, groups responding to the consultation have asked the local authority to consider a u-turn and retain the free period.

Rediscover Peterhead business improvement district (Bid) boss John Pascoe was one of those who responded to the consultation and warned it would have a “real impact” on shopkeepers in the town.

He argued that scrapping the free parking period would provide an “additional hurdle” for visitors coming to Peterhead.

He said: “The town centre businesses we surveyed are of the view that the free period should be retained at all costs, to avoid a real impact on those businesses.”

“The removal of a free parking period would be an additional hurdle to visiting the town centre and will likely drive away customers and visitors, effectively reversing the pattern the free periods initiated in 2014.”

Bennachie Community Council has also raised concerns about the move and feels people living in rural areas will be “penalised”.

Responding to the consultation, the group said: “The consequence of these changes means that the majority of rural inhabitants have no option other than to use a car.

“It is completely inappropriate for rural residents to be penalised with parking charges when they have no option but to use a car.”

Council transport boss Ewan Wallace insisted the authority had been left with no choice but to scrap the free periods.

He said: “Every option for continuing to provide free periods has been looked at, and the council is between a rock and a hard place.

“It is simply 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.”

Meanwhile, members of the infrastructure services committee will hear about plans for the council to take over the enforcement of on-street parking from the police.

The local authority has developed its own proposals for the scheme which could lead to the return of traffic wardens or parking enforcement officers to the streets of Aberdeenshire. Council officers could be asked to revisit the study with any fresh findings coming back to the ISC next January.

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