Business leaders say plans to reintroduce parking charges across north-east town centres will create a “barrier” for traders at a time when they most need help.
Aberdeenshire Council suspended at all off-street parking fees at the start of the lockdown in March to stop multiple people having to touch the same machines and to reduce the need for staff to attend them.
However, the pay and display charges will resume on Monday, January 4, to try to ensure the local authority covers its £48,000 operating costs.
Derek Ritchie, head of the We Are Inverurie business improvement district said the move will hinder attempts to reignite the local economy.
He said: “This will be a setback for the town centres. It would be nice to know if the Spaces For People restrictions will be removed at the same time as then one move would offset the other.
“That has done away with a lot of on-street parking and a lot of people feel it’s a barrier for people coming into the town centre. We don’t want to put up another barrier.
“We definitely appreciate the waived fees up until now through the coronavirus emergency, it has been helpful. But neither we nor the council knows where we are going to be in January so I am confused as to why they are making this decision now.”
In September 2019 an hour-long free parking scheme scrapped and longer stays made cheaper in a move that pulled in almost £60,000 for the council that month.
Chairman of Peterhead Rediscovered, Leslie Forsyth, says the reinstatement of those levies is “disappointing”.
He said: “This remains an issue of concern in Peterhead and we will be talking to the council again about this in the very near future.
“The numbers of cars in our car parks had gone down significantly.”
The local authority’s head of transportation Ewan Wallace said higher leverls of car use of late has resulted in some customers “experiencing difficulty accessing parking spaces due to a lack of turnover”.
He added: “Charging is a way of managing the supply and demand of our pay and display car-parks and it helps bring our facilities closer to covering their own costs – which is absolutely vital.”
Elsewhere Aberdeenshire Council has shared out £1.17million in Scottish Government funding to nine projects aimed at driving economic activity and stimulating town centre recovery.
It will help fund a town centre enhancement scheme in Aboyne, public realm improvements in Fraserburgh, a community garden in Stonehaven, town centre improvements in Ballater, redevelopment of a property in Fraserburgh, creation of a community garden in Peterhead, redevelopment of the V&A halls in Ballater and a youth room for the MACBI centre in Mintlaw.
Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure committee, Councillor Peter Argyle, said: “This money is intended to support the economic recovery of our town centres, to bring transformational change for towns and their surrounding communities by creating growth which supports them to become more vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible places.
“The fund was heavily oversubscribed making the decision difficult. All those projects which applied merited funding and Aberdeenshire Council officers will work with the unsuccessful groups to support them find the funding they require.”