Free parking in Fraserburgh may be about to end

Cllr Peter Argyle stressed that around 75% of all parking remained free in the regions towns
Cllr Peter Argyle stressed that around 75% of all parking remained free in the regions towns

A decision on the future of the region’s car-park charges will now be made at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council early next year.

Councillors on the local authority’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) were expected to make a decision on Thursday to approve the removal of free periods in car-parks and the introduction of new tariffs to balance the books.

But in a last-gasp move described by committee chair Councillor Peter Argyle as “something of a waste of time”, a group of five councillors exercised their right to have the matter discussed at the full council.

Facing a projected £211,000 car-park budget deficit for the current financial year, council officers are proposing to scrap free parking periods and replace them with a 50p charge for up to one hour across the region.

Councillors heard that prior to the introduction of the free tariffs there were around 800,000 transactions annually in its car parks across the Shire.

But while that number has since risen to 1.3 million in 2017/18, some 80 per cent were free.

Earlier this year the ISC unanimously agreed to a very minimum of a neutral budget for car parks and said to balance the budget a significant change in income was required.

Head of transportation Ewan Wallace said that even even with a 35 per cent reduction in the overall transactions due to any changes in the behaviour of the people parking in our towns, the proposed tariffs would still generate sufficient income to cover the budget deficit.

Cllr Argyle stressed that around 75% of all parking remained free in the region’s towns through off-street parking and said there were no proposals to change that.

He said: “Seventy five percent of all the places off-street and 100% of all the places on-street where people can park in Aberdeenshire are currently free and there is absolutely no proposal to change that.”

He did, however, propose a motion to increase the 2-5 hour tariff from £2 to £3 in bid to enourage turnover of spaces.

He added: “We want to encourage motorists to stay longer in our town centres and hopefully spend more money while they’re there.

“We’re not seeking to make a profit. If there is any surplus then it will be reinvested into the transport service.”

However, East Garioch councillor Glen Reid proposed retaining a Shire-wide 30-minute free period to run alongside alternative tariffs which he claimed would still bring in a neutral budget.

He claimed that the free period, coupled with a slightly different tariff rate, would generate just over £203,000 if there was no behavioural change.

Cllr Argyle described those figures as “erroneous” claiming they did not take into account VAT and that the council would still face a deficit.

Cllr Argyle’s motion defeated the amendment by nine votes to five.

However the percentage support for the latter triggered a call by Cllr Reid to have the matter referred to full council.