Councillors expected to give green light to parking charge increases

VISITORS to Stonehaven will be charged more to park in the town’s Market Square if proposals to hike up car parking prices across the shire are given the go-ahead today (Thursday).

Councillors on Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee will be asked to approve the proposals, despite a promise from the local authority to freeze rates until 2012.

The cost of parking in the square will increase by as much as 50 per cent if councillors back the move.

It marks an about-face for the council, who made a promise in June 2009 that there would be no increase in charges for three years, but officials state that the changes will bring in £200,000 of additional revenue for the cash strapped authority over the coming year.

If councillors approve the increases, it will see charges across the region jump from 40p to 60p for a one-hour stay, from 80p to £1.20 for one to two-hours, from £1.50 to £2.00 for two to three-hours and from £4.00 to £5.00 for three to ten-hour stays.

There are no proposals to introduce parking charges in car parks that are currently free or to increase the cost of residents’ permits or fines.

Of the 4,121 designated car parking spaces in town centres in Aberdeenshire 28 per cent are pay and display spaces. The remainder are free or allocated to blue badge holders.

Local roads manager Mark Skilling states: “Small increases to the income generated from the proposed car parking charge increases will help as the council seeks to maintain investment levels across a range of roads and transport functions.”

The council undertook a period of statutory and public consultation on the proposals, with a number of respondents expressing concern that the higher parking charges could hamper the economic development of some towns.

Others suggested that the rates remain at a same level, except for the three to ten hour rate which could be raised to £1 per hour for seven hours, rising to £15 there after.

However, Mark Hagger of the Cyclists’ Touring Club Grampian, welcomed the changes and said he hoped they might discourage people from making “unnecessary journeys” by car.