Business communities across Aberdeenshire have voiced their concern about plans to scrap free car parking in town centres.
Aberdeenshire Council will meet this month to decide whether all the free parking periods will be ditched to help close a budget gap of £211,000.
Inverurie’s Business Association (IBA) has been working closely with We Are Inverurie BID to retain the town’s 30-minute free parking.
Chairwoman of the IBA Victoria Withy last night said the group had canvassed for local opinion and found that many people would not shop in the town if a parking charge was introduced for the first half hour.
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“The 30-minute free parking encourages people into our town centre,” said Mrs Withy. “We feel very strongly that the removal of the free parking could have a negative impact on Inverurie’s retail and other town businesses.
“It would reduce trade from local people who pop in for milk, papers, banking, library, takeaway coffee and lunches and a just a quick visit to a shop.
“As Inverurie’s parking is currently returning a surplus, removing it would effectively result in people having to pay to park in Inverurie, therefore subsidising other towns, which is seen as unacceptable.”
Speaking at last month’s infrastructure services committee, meeting convenor councillor Peter Argyle said officers had “exhaustively” studied the best action to take as the current system was “not sustainable” and argued that a “small charge” would be the most effective way to address the loss of money.
The current tariffs vary from town to town across the region, with the length of time motorists can park for free varying from two hours in Turriff to 30 minutes in Inverurie. The new proposals would have a set charge of 50p for the first hour of parking in all towns.
Stonehaven’s Business Association (SBA) has lodged a petition with the authority urging for the free parking to be retained.
Outlining concerns in a letter addressed to area manager Willie Munro, SBA member Ian Philip said the plans would have an “undoubtable negative impact” on the town, adding: “It will remove the ability of residents in the area and visitors from elsewhere to shop in the centre – this can only be a backwards step for our town centre.
“The effect on retail outlets will be severely at risk of reduced footfall and therefore direct financial impact for the town centre.”
Aberdeenshire Council is expected to discuss the proposals at a meeting on January 17.