A MAJOR review will be carried out into car parking charges across large tracts of the Yorkshire Dales amid warnings the introduction of new fees could undermine the multi-million-pound tourism industry.
Richmondshire District Council had drawn up plans to revise the charges in car parks to counter the intense financial pressures caused by the Government’s funding cuts.
However, concerns have been expressed that the introduction of new parking charges in towns including Richmond could undermine the district’s hugely important tourism sector.
Fears have been voiced that visitors already attempting to cope with the soaring cost of petrol would be put off from stopping off if the parking charges are introduced.
Coun John Blackie, who represents the Hawes and High Abbotside ward in the Upper Dales, maintained that any drop in business could sound the death knell for many small independent firms already struggling during the economic gloom.
The fees for one of Richmondshire’s most popular destinations, Hawes, will increase to £3.50 a day for the next financial year in a move that is expected to generate about £11,000 on the existing £69,000 income for the market town’s 100 car parking spaces. But Coun Blackie maintained he was hopeful that the review could see a freeze put on future parking charges in tourism hotspots such as Hawes as well as small villages including Muker.
He also criticised proposals which would have allowed a free half-hour of parking in Colburn’s Broadway and Hildyard Row in Catterick Garrison – while other locations would not benefit from a similar 30-minute reprieve.
He said: “I am not opposed to making cuts or having to increase fees because of the budget pressures, it is something every local authority is having to contend with.
“But I would ask that any overhaul of parking is done in a fair and measured manner so that one community does not suffer while another benefits unduly.”
Tourism industry in Richmondshire is worth £184.5m annually to the local economy, supporting more than 4,500 jobs during the peak season.
But the district council is faced with having to curb costs and find new ways of generating income as it battles a dramatic reduction in its grant from Westminster.
The authority is having to cut £1.5m from its annual £8m revenue budget over the next two years to counter a shortfall in Government funding.
The initial proposals would have seen charges enforced for the first time at car parks including Richmond Station, the Broadway in Colburn and Hildyard Row in Catterick Garrison.
But councillors have now asked officers to carry out a comprehensive review which will look at all the council’s car parking areas and glean the views of local businesses and shops.
The results are due to be published in the autumn.
Council leader Fleur Butler stressed that a clear distinction needed to be made for car parks serving tourism destinations such as Hawes and other locations, including Colburn.
She added: “A lot of the businesses are not against the introduction of charges. You cannot keep saying no to everything when we are faced with having to make the financial savings we are faced with.
“We need to analyse the difference between more business-orientated car parks and those which are mainly serving our tourism economy.
“The car parking charges are an important stream of revenue to help support council taxpayers and the service the council provides.”
She added: “We want to make sure that tourists are contributing to pay for services as well as Richmondshire’s taxpayers themselves.”