The first review of car parking in four years will be discussed next week as West Suffolk Council looks at how best to continue to support town centre economies.
The West Suffolk Parking Review Group was set up to recognise the important role that tariffs play in supporting local town centre economies both by managing car parking demand and paying towards ensuring town centres are clean and safe spaces where people want to go.
It has put forward a number of recommendations following a review which looked at issues of parking demand, capacity, length of stay, benchmark data and spoke to business groups including Business Improvement Districts, local councillors and car park users.
The car parking review groups’ recommendations will be considered by West Suffolk Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee next Thursday, January 23). Those recommendations which the committee decides to put forward will then come before Cabinet on February 11 for its first discussion on the options.
The car parking review group has made recommendations for increases in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill. Aside from the introduction of pay on exit parking in Bury St Edmunds last year, the recommendations represent the first tariff increases in four years.
In Brandon, it recognises that the car parks are often full with people parking all day which means less spaces are available for shoppers or people visiting other town centre businesses. The group was split in its view on how best to deal with the issue, with the majority of councillors recommending the introduction of low level short and long stay parking charges, while an alternative suggestion to install free machines and carry out enforcement has also been put forward for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider.
The council doesn’t own any car parks in Clare and has no control over the existing tariffs. The group recommends discussions continue to look at how best to address additional parking capacity in the town.
Meanwhile, in Mildenhall the group recommends that discussions take place with the town council which owns the Jubilee Car Park around managing this facility for the benefit of the town.
The group has decided not to provide a view on parking options in respect of Newmarket. If this is accepted by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Cabinet will need to determine its own proposals for the town.
David Nettleton, who led the review group, said: “People don’t come to our town centres for the parking – their decision to come to town is for a purpose or experience. They may be shopping, visiting a café, restaurant, cultural or leisure attraction, an event that is being held or equally it may simply be for meeting with friends or some other social activity. All income from parking goes back into supporting not just the running of the car parks, but other related services to ensure our town centres continue to be clean and safe places that people want to visit.
“When a motorist pays for a parking space they are paying for a service and toward that supporting infrastructure. We invest significantly in the upkeep and management of our car parks. As well as staff and maintenance, the council also pays Business Rates on its car parks of close to £1m a year. While these costs have all risen, the council has not increased tariffs for up to eight years in some of our car parks.
“We recognise that car parking plays a role in supporting our town centre economies. But tariffs aren’t just about paying for a space. They are also a mechanism for managing demand including the turnover of spaces to support the town centre economy. This includes ensuring the correct balance of short stay parking close to the town centre and long stay parking for town centre workers a little further out.
“Where there is a demand for parking spaces it should be the user, not the taxpayer, that pays for the service. It’s also really important that we recognise that car parks are only one mode of travel and where possible we encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport as a way of better managing the increasing congestion on our roads. Air quality is an equally important consideration.”
Details on the recommendations to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee can be read at https://democracy.westsuffolk.gov.uk/documents/g4582/Public%20reports%20pack%20Thursday%2023-Jan-2020%2018.00%20Overview%20and%20Scrutiny%20Committee.pdf?T=10