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£1 deal at Aberdeen city centre car parks from 5pm amid claims bus gates are ‘killing business’

Council chiefs hope the new scheme will lure drivers back into the struggling city centre.

Aberdeen parking deal
The £1 parking scheme has been launched for a six-month trial. Image: DC Thomson

Council chiefs accused of damaging Aberdeen businesses with car bans are rolling out a £1 parking deal to bring more people into the city centre.

Off-street parking charges will be slashed in a bid to encourage footfall months after traders claimed new bus gates are putting people off venturing into town.

Currently, motorists have to pay £3 to stay at council car parks for up to two hours.

But from the end of May that fee will drop to just a quid after 5pm.

Locator image of Gallowgate car park.
Gallowgate car park is one of the facilities that drivers will be able to use at a reduced price. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson.

The changes will apply for car parks such as Gallowgate, Frederick Street and Marischal College seven days a week.

The move comes after hundreds of people claimed the city centre has become “anti-car”, with many blaming the bus gates for “driving shoppers away from the area”.

Aberdeen City Council says the deal will send a “clear message” that there are still plenty of options for motorists.

Table of current city centre parking charges.
This table shows the current charges at some of the main city centre car parks. Image: Aberdeen City Council.

Why are they reducing parking charges?

The drastic step will cost the cash-strapped council an estimated £80,000 in charges.

But SNP finance chief Alex McLellan said it would be worth it to show Aberdeen city centre is “open for business”.

He claims slashing parking fees will “hopefully boost nighttime economy and footfall”.

SNP councillor Alex McLellan presented the coalition’s budget plans yesterday. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The scheme will be in place for six months.

It was one of several city centre initiatives that were agreed as part of the ruling SNP and Lib Dem coalition’s spending plan for the year ahead.

A £32 million revamp of Castlegate and Queen Street was also voted through.

Queen Street police station in Aberdeen. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
A new “urban park” will be created on Queen Street – with the final plans (including whether not to demolish the old police HQ yet to be decided). Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Could lower city centre parking fees revert ‘harmful’ effects of bus gates?

Residents have long called for free parking in the city centre, saying this could be a “quick fix” to stave off the decline of the Granite Mile.

Tensions grew even further with the introduction of the city centre bus gates, which caused “fury and confusion” among drivers.

A blue road marking with white text reading 'bus gate'
The Aberdeen bus gates have been the source of plenty of controversy. Image: Joshua Pizzuto-Pomaco

Many even claimed that they would no longer come into the area.

“Why go to Aberdeen? It just isn’t worth it,” said John Sutton, who once found himself “trapped” in the city centre without a clear “escape route”.

Bus gates were also blamed for the closure of popular businesses Haigs and Olive Alexander, with owners saying the travel restrictions “killed” trade for them.

And there is further change ahead with the city’s low emission zone coming into force this June.

But Mr McLellan insisted that they don’t want to completely outcast drivers as they strive to get more folk on the bus or on their bikes.

Artist's impression of LEZ sign on Bridge Street, Aberdeen.
An artist’s impression of how an LEZ sign could look on Bridge Street. Image: DC Thomson.

He added: “We realise a lot of people still want to drive into town and access shops and services as they have always done.

“This new [parking] scheme will build upon the clear messaging where motorists can park and how to get to our off-street car parks.”

Do you think reduced parking fees will boost footfall into the city centre? Let us know in our comments section below.

Has this been done before?

A similar scheme was launched in 2018, with charges at Denburn, West North Street, Chapel Street and Frederick Street car parks dropped between 5pm and 8am.

However, council leaders at the time said research suggested this actually made no difference to footfall and shelved the project.

Ragout of the article on free parking initiative from 2018.
The “Alive after Five” initiative was lauded as offering a “multi-million-pound boost” to the struggling retail sector in the months leading up to Christmas 2018. Image: Mhorvan Park/DC Thomson.

The SNP and Liberal Democrats, then in opposition but now running the council, battled unsuccessfully to prolong it for six more months.

Whether dropping the charges will have a different outcome this time round, we will have to wait and see.

So what will happen after the trial period?

As we mentioned earlier, the scheme will be in place for six months – coming to the end of November.

Councillors will then review the results of the scheme and decide whether to extend it.