Councillors are poised to formally rubber-stamp plans which will see the scrapping of free parking at every Aberdeenshire pay and display car-park.
Following both statutory and public consultations in the Spring, the findings are being brought before Thursday’s meeting of the council’s Infrastructure Service Committee (ISC).
However, despite objections being received, officers do not believe they present any fundamental reason for changes to the council’s original decision made back in January.
They are recommending that the council proceeds with the introduction of agreed new tariffs which would see the first hour’s parking costing 50p, followed by £2 for one to two hours, £2 for two to five hours and £5 for over five hours.
Despite massive public and business opposition to the proposals, the council maintains that it is facing a projected £211,000 car-park budget deficit for the current financial year.
Prior to the introduction of the free tariffs in 2014 there had been around 800,000 transactions annually in its car parks, but while that has risen to 1.3 million in 2017/18, some 80 percent were free.
Earlier this year head of transportation Ewan Wallace said that running the off-street car parks was now being done at a deficit and was putting “pressure on other council departments”.
He said officers had examined various scenarios and were convinced that the dropping of free parking and the introduction of smaller charges would be the most effective way to reduce the funding gap.
However, representations from both the statutory and public consultations insist it will hit businesses and rural customers during an already difficult economic climate.
In its response, business improvement group Rediscover Peterhead writes: “The removal of a free parking period would be an additional hurdle to visiting the town centre and will likely drive away customers and visitors effectively reversing the pattern that the free periods initiated in 2014.
“The overwhelming majority of town centre businesses polled are against the proposed change to the free parking period. Rediscover Peterhead, as an organisation representing these businesses and their wider economic future, are against the removal of the free parking period.
“Further we consider collaborative working with all organisations to be a fundamental part of a Business Improvement District and its success and in this instance the view contained here we expect to be very much considered in the decision-making process, rather than a simple box-ticking consultation exercise.”
The Federation of Small Businesses has also waded into the debate, warning Aberdeenshire Council to study and review the impact that parking charges have had in the neighbouring Angus Council area.
It states: “Since November 2018, there have been reports of businesses across different sectors in Angus forced to close their doors, with many citing a drastic fall in footfall and takings. This has also been accompanied by pictures of deserted car parks across the county, which benefits neither, local business, the local economy nor the council.
“In challenging economic times for businesses on our high streets, it is important that the parking policy is reflective of the local area and used as a lever to support the local economy.”