Council votes to end free parking periods

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Free periods in Aberdeenshire’s pay and display car parks are to end.

The full council has voted to remove the free stay and reduce rates charged to motorists for longer stays.

There will now be a 50p charge for the first hour.

The council has more than 100 car parks, of which charges only apply to 24, and although the free time introduced in 2014 has seen an increase in usage, the authority is currently making a loss of over £200,000.

An amendment was tabled by the SNP and Labour opposition which, they said, by marginally increasing the cost of longer stays would have seen the council recover the costs of maintaining their car park network while maintaining the free parking period.

The proposal was rejected by 36 votes to 25.

The move to scrap the free periods has come under fire from business groups across the region who fear it will impact on trade.

Local business associations were represented at the full council meeting and made a case against the changes.

It was widely noted that the free period was brought in due to the fragility of the local economy, and while it has been largely successful in increasing turnover in town centre car parks, any move to reimpose tariffs would likely undermine the progress.

Mearns SNP councillor Leigh Wilson voted to maintain the free parking and expressed his regret at the council decision.

He said: “It is deeply disappointing to see that the council administration has voted to remove the 30-minute free parking period across car parks in Aberdeenshire.

“This will be a blow to local businesses who often rely on this incentive to drive up footfall in town centres.

“Without this incentive, people are likely to bypass town centres altogether and instead head to supermarkets or out-of-town retail parks. We should be doing everything instead to draw people into the Mearns.”

Councillor Peter Argyle, chair of the infrastructure services committee, said that the council had no choice but to make the move. He added: “We have a situation in Aberdeenshire where we are making a loss of over £200,000 on our car parks, with 80% of our users are staying for just the 30-minute free period.

“It is an unsustainable position which means the remaining 20% of users, who are paying tariffs, are effectively subsiding the free period.

“At a time when we are all trying to make savings, it would be wrong to say that subsidising car parks is our ultimate priority.”