Move to extend pay and display charges to all council car parks

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PAY-AND-display charges could be introduced to all car parks in the Richmond area as the council considers ways of countering budget shortfalls.

As a 12-month consultation on charging motorists gets underway, parish and town councils in Richmondshire are likely to be offered control of car parks.

For the first time, users of the Station Road/Swimming Pool car park in Richmond will be made to pay and display for a maximum of four hours, with 30 minutes’ free parking offered in just three designated bays.

Seven other car parks in the area – including those in Easby, Askrigg, Gilling West, Hudswell and Middleton Tyas – could be handed over to parish and town councils, who will then decide whether or not to charge users.

Lease agreements with the Ministry of Defence for two car parks at Catterick Garrison could be terminated.

Lorry drivers may also be charged for using the lorry park at Colburn.

It would mean all car parks under the jurisdiction of Richmondshire Council could charge by the end of next year.

A report put before the Council’s Strategy Board ahead of a meeting next Tuesday states: “Car parking charges form a key strand of income generated by the council to provide a balanced budget and has been identified as having the potential to assist in the council’s projected budget shortfall for 2012/13.”

The report estimates that charging motorists to use the Station Road car park will generate an extra £30,000 a year, while switching control of the other car parks will save £13,100 a year.

Two workshops held earlier this year considered the possible options, including installing honesty boxes in council-run car parks.

The report concluded that honesty boxes would only be feasible in rural areas such as Easby than in the town centre, where people would be less inclined to pay.

“Key principles” outlined in the second of these workshops, held in September, included: “The council will seek to maximise income from those car parks which clearly have a recognised predominant visitor/tourism usage.”

Another one read: “The Council will explore with parish/town councils the transfer of parking areas that do not achieve a “break even” position.”

Proposals to introduce charges were discussed by the council on February 22, with a comprehensive review ordered.

The situation will be reviewed again in the Autumn of 2012, following the consultation.

Coun John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, said the charges were necessary and would not affect businesses.

“With the exception of The Station car park, there are no final decisions here. In this consultation, we want to engage with the community, go the extra mile and create a win-win scenario for all concerned.

“The manager of The Station said that at present, people parking all day in the car park are not coming in and spending any money.

“But the repeated changeover of a short-stay car park means fresh footfall on a daily basis.

“We would ask those who park there all day to use one of the many other long-term car parks.

“On the other nine car parks, we will approach town and parish councils and ask them if they would consider taking them off our hands.

“They will be brought up to spec. We won’t hand them over in a decrepit state.

He added that the completed review stage and the forthcoming consultation were a better alternative to the previous Conservative-led administration’s plans to rush through the charges.

“The previous administration caused a degree of angst, firstly over what was being proposed and secondly, the speed of introducing what was being proposed.

“We’ve gained the opinions of all the ward members during these workshops. We’re also open to offers and good ideas.”