North Yorkshire County Council has responded to calls from Harrogate retailers who believe town centre car parking charges should be reduced or discounted.
Independent businesses raised the issue of parking in last week’s Harrogate Advertiser, suggesting it made people ‘think twice’ about shopping in the town centre.
The idea of providing discounted charges or even bringing back ‘free’ Sunday parking was raised as a way of boosting town centre trade.
However, North Yorkshire County Councillor Don Mackenzie says Sunday parking charges were introduced due to visitors actually ‘being deterred’ from coming into town, unhappy at the lack of available spaces. He believes current costs are ‘reasonable.’
“Parking charges in Harrogate compare very favourably with those in nearby competing retail centres like Leeds and York,” he said. “There is a great deal of evidence that reasonable parking charges do not deter visitors. Difficulty in finding parking spaces is much more off-putting.
“Additionally, the town also has a very large number of disc parking spaces close to the town centre where drivers can park free of charge for up to three hours within a short walk from the town centre.
“NYCC uses all its parking surpluses to fund various transport improvements, including on the Harrogate Rail Line, on sustainable transport projects, on air quality schemes, and in contributing towards the £8m a year cost of bus passes issued under the National Concessionary Travel Scheme.”
Coun Mackenzie added that NYCC’s Harrogate Congestion Study also found that residents now understand that charges encourage the use of public transport, cycling and walking.
The Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) also said it wished to work with local councils, as surveys found that customers’ experience of coming into, and moving around the town, ‘was putting them off.’
Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, is keen to talk with BID: “HBC is one of the largest contributors to the Harrogate BID, putting in tens of thousands of pounds.
“We are happy to talk to the BID about any initiatives they wish to bring forward, as long as they align to the manifesto and have evidence to prove that they are likely to be successful.
“Our preferred solutions to congestion and parking are always to favour sustainable transport and we are waiting for discussions with the BID as to how we can move this vision forward together.”
Sunday parking charges:
Sunday Parking charges in Harrogate were introduced in November 2016 by North Yorkshire County Council. The council say that unrestricted parking from 6pm on Saturday to 8am Monday resulted in the town centre’s streets ‘being fully parked up, and acting as a deterrent to visitors.’