Longer parking spells – and not free parking – could be the way to turn around the fortunes of Aberdeen city centre.
Boffins looking at all aspects of Union Street think a “modest change” in the parking regime could help increase footfall.
Our Union Street is pressuring Aberdeen City Council to consider a shake-up for the sake of the Granite Mile.
They want the local authority to get rid of the current shortest window – an hour – instead making the minimum option at the meter last two hours.
This, they say, could encourage more visitors to browse the shops.
It comes as volunteers working with the taskforce ponder how best to bring people back to the struggling high street.
The think tank has produced a second white paper, putting forward new ways to restore the diminished shopping street to its former glory.
Around 10,000 ideas have been whittled down to five key themes.
And problems parking in Aberdeen city centre – or the perception that it is difficult to do so – is part of that latest work.
‘Plenty’ of Aberdeen city centre parking spaces
Volunteers tasked with probing problems with Aberdeen city centre parking have found… there is no problem.
The white paper reads: “There is a widely held perception that it is difficult
and expensive to park in Aberdeen city centre.
“Detailed studies of parking across a range of Scottish towns and cities do not support the perceptions around availability and price.
“There are plenty of city centre parking spaces available in Aberdeen, in fact 1,821 more than in Edinburgh.
“They are reasonably priced compared with Edinburgh and Glasgow and similar to those in Dundee – and in most cases more accessible.”
What do you think? Would free parking in Aberdeen city centre draw you back to Union Street?
Popular solutions are not the answer, Our Union Street claims
Suggestions to boost footfall on Union Street and the surrounding Aberdeen city centre often include slashing the cost of parking – or making it free altogether.
Other solutions include electronic signs and smartphone apps for real-time information on where there are free spaces.
But Our Union Street’s white paper opines that there is “no obvious evidence” that a change in parking rates would increase the number of city centre shoppers.
A six-month trial of free evening parking in four Aberdeen city centre car parks was abandoned in 2019.
Any similar – or even more widespread – parking amnesty would hit council coffers at a time of significant financial turmoil.
Already, budget cuts of £43.5m loom next March – a situation so grim that councillors have gone to the public to learn which cuts would hurt least.
‘Simply telling people they’re wrong won’t work’
Volunteers looking at calls for the high-tech answer to knowing where to park believe there is “no strong business case” for apps or data solutions too.
Our Union Street chiefs said people are “incorrect” to be concerned about parking, as well as Granite Mile business rates and the Low Emission Zone.
They add: “But simply telling people ‘you are wrong’ won’t work – but we need to share what we have found out and what we now know in many ways that allows people to make their own minds up based on new information.”
It’s a problem Aberdeen City Council has tussled with recently too.
Chief planner David Dunne recently complained the narrative around new bus gates in Aberdeen city centre was “completely inaccurate”.
He said access to all car parks had been maintained, as well as more blue badge disabled spaces being added during the work.
So what should be done to improve Aberdeen city centre parking?
What could help bring more people to Union Street and Aberdeen city centre, they suggest, is getting rid of the one-hour cheapest window at the parking meter.
It would end the race against time for motorists to return to their cars, possibly encouraging them to visit more businesses.
The “modest” suggestion is to replace the one-hour stint with two or three hours in certain areas.
And they believe it would present “no realistic threat” to the council’s revenues raised from city centre parking.
The white paper adds: “We have anecdotal examples that the one-hour limit on some city centre parking discourages visitors and will be asking Aberdeen City Council to consider a change.”
Lib Dem council co-leader Ian Yuill told The P&J his joint administration with the SNP was “keen to work in partnership” with Our Union Street.
“We look forward to seeing the Our Union Street white paper and all of the proposals in that.
“I think it is important that we examine those ideas as a whole and we are happy to consider and discuss any and all proposals in that paper.”
- Could Uber be the answer to the taxi crisis said to be hampering Aberdeen city centre’s recovery?
- Read Bob Keiller’s call to action here