A controversial proposal to scrap free car parking periods in Aberdeenshire’s town centres has been deferred.
The council’s infrastructure services committee met yesterday to discuss the plans, which would have meant that free terms, first introduced in 2014, would have been ditched in order to close a budget gap of £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.
The length of time motorists can currently use these sites for free varies from town to town, ranging from 30 minutes to as much as two hours.
The current tariffs 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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Committee convener Peter Argyle said officers had “exhaustively” studied the best action to take moving forward.
However, he said continuing with the current system was “not sustainable” and argued that a “small charge” across the region would be the most effective way to address the money loss.
Mr Argyle added that the changes should be reviewed after a year to see if they had been effective and also proposed a pilot scheme in Huntly where parking would be linked with businesses a loyalty scheme.
But Councillor Glen Reid, East Garioch ward, said he feared scrapping the parking, even for just a year, could have a “devastating” impact on town centres.
Mr Reid suggested the committee endorse one of the alternative options proposed by officers, where a 30-minute free period would be standard across all the region’s car parks with increased costs for longer periods which would also close the deficit.
However, Mr Argyle pointed out that, once VAT was added, this policy would still leave the authority more than £100,000 out of pocket.
Mr Argyle’s motion to scrap the free period was backed by the majority of the committee, but Mr Reid subsequently gained enough support for the decision to be passed onto full council.
Meanwhile, businesses in Banchory, where there is currently a free period of 45 minutes, feared the impact of scrapping free parking.
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.
“Banchory is quite a small place so you can park and get round all the things you need in that time. I think this would put shoppers off.”