Pay and display charges to rise

Increased prices at pay and display and country park car parks in Aberdeenshire have been approved by councillors.

The decision was taken at a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday, March 17.

A decision had already been taken by the full council last year to revise charges for parking and a consultation was held on proposed changes.

The new charges could generate an income of around £200,000 per year for projects including road repairs, though the council parking policy’s main aim has always been to ensure the turnover of spaces in towns.

There was some criticism at the committee meeting of the fact that assurances were made previously not to alter the charges until 2012.

But ISC chairman Peter Argyle said councillors were faced with a very clear choice. He reminded them of the “enormous pressure” on the council to balance its budget, especially following two particularly hard winters.

“Most right-thinking people will recognise we are in a completely different place than at the time those assurances were given,” he said.

“I suppose the decision all of us have to face is whether to accept this increase and have an additional £200,000 to spend on our roads, and in so doing go back on a commitment that was given, or whether to find £200,000 out of our roads budget.”

The council offers a range of parking options to cater for a whole range of users, including free parking to accommodate shop and office workers, as well as waiting time restrictions, useful for those running small errands.

Within the mix, the provision of pay and display parking is also very important in terms of making long-term parking in town centre car parks less attractive, thereby releasing valuable spaces for short term visitors.

The committee heard that the current policy is working well and it is not considered that the new charges – which are still modest in comparison to other authorities – will be detrimental.

ISC vice chair Jill Webster supported the changes and told fellow councillors: “We’ve got to come up with the funds and the savings somewhere. Only 28% of spaces in towns are charged for, so we’ve still got 72% that are free, and in places like Aberdeen City you can’t park for free anywhere.

“Our charges are only daytime charges and that is relevant as well. Although we don’t want to do it, I can’t ignore the fact this is £200,000 that we need for other things the council is doing.

“I also think it is important to highlight there are no plans to introduce charges in car parks that are currently free or to increase charges associated with resident’s permits and penalty charge notices.”

Councillor Rob Merson put forward a motion to defer parking price changes until next year, but it was defeated following a vote by an amendment from councillor Argyle to follow officers’ recommendations.

The revised tariffs mean that parking in the council’s pay and display car parks will increase from 40p to 60p for one hour; 80p to £1.20 for two hours, £1.50 to £2 for 3 hours, and from £4 to £5 for up to 10 hours.

There will also be small charge increases at Aberdeenshire council’s four country park car parks. The rises will take effect from April. -