Controversial plans to scrap free parking look like they could move ahead, despite opposition from town centre traders.
In November, Aberdeenshire Council deferred a decision on plans to scrap free parking periods in pay and display car parks across the region, in a move which would save the authority £211,000.
The proposals suggested by officers would have resulted in motorists having to shell out 50p for the first hour in pay and display car parks.
Now the decision has been passed onto full council at the request of councillors who were opposed to the plan, fearing it could have a “devastating” impact on struggling town centres.
But officers have repeated their recommendation and want councillors to push ahead with the overhaul.
The current tariffs, with the length of time motorists can park for free varying from town to town, have been in place for four years, with the number of transactions at car parks rising from 800,000 per year to about 1.3 million – however 80% of these are free leaving the authority with a massive deficit.
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A report, which will be discussed by councillors on Thursday, states: “Whilst many motorists expect car parking to be free, the limits on space, costs involved and demand for spaces means that car parking needs to be managed properly. Often the most effective way to do this is by charging for parking.”
The latest report has sparked anger among traders and councillors across the north-east.
John Pascoe, chairman of Rediscover Peterhead, said if the council progresses the proposal then it will have 220 town centre businesses actively opposing it.
He stated: “If we’re serious about taking a town-centre first approach in this then the council needs to stick with the status quo and retain free parking. Quite simply this is a retrograde step which Rediscover Peterhead will actively oppose.”
Meanwhile, businesses in Banchory, where there is a 45-minute free period, have also previously objected to the proposal.
Jenny Davidson, who is a member of the town’s business association and runs JD Solutions, said: “I think this will keep people away from the high street.”
At the infrastructure services committee meeting in November, chairman Peter Argyle stressed that about 75% of all parking would remain free.
If the councillors agree to progress with the plan, there will be a public consultation before a final decision is made.