Plans for the extension of parking charges in Harrogate has seen a strong reaction from local people.
The North Yorkshire County Council proposals would see the introduction of a charge of a flat £2 for after 6pm parking and the introduction of Sunday parking.
County Council say that the plans will help the town and that there is no evidence to show that they would be detrimental.
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said: North Yorkshire County Council will take steps to listen to the views of residents and businesses in Harrogate and its surrounding areas on its proposal to improve the turnover of parking spaces on town centre streets by introducing evening and Sunday parking charges.
The proposal is intended to ensure on-street spaces are available for short-stay shoppers on Sundays and night-time visitors to Harrogate by encouraging drivers who want to stay for longer to park in the town’s off-street car parks.
Since the pay and display scheme was originally introduced Sunday trading has become far more popular and Harrogate’s night time economy has expanded, so there is greater necessity for a turnover of parking spaces during these hours as well.
As things stand, people can leave their cars from 18:00 hours Saturday night overnight and through all day Sunday in premium town centre spaces without paying a fee. This leads to a shortage of on-street, short-stay spaces for visitors and shoppers.
Similarly, evening charges are proposed because the current situation enables people to leave their cars at 18:00 through until 08:00 the next morning at no cost, reducing options for evening visitors wishing to enjoy Harrogate’s growing leisure, catering and entertainment opportunities.
Moreover, Sunday and evening charges do apply to off-street town centre car parks managed by Harrogate Borough Council. The fact that on-street parking is free during evenings and Sundays therefore means there is additional pressure on these spaces.
The county council is therefore proposing that a £2 flat fee is introduced for on-street parking after 18:00 Monday to Sunday. It is also proposing that during the day on Sunday 08:00-18:00, charges are applied at the same rate as currently Monday to Saturday. The proposal does not affect the daily hourly tariffs which have not increased since 2011.
These proposals are in line with widely accepted traffic management principles and best practice guidance.
The county council now plans to consult widely on these proposed changes and listen to what people have to say. They will be discussed initially at the County Council’s Harrogate area committee next Wednesday.
Cllr Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Highways said: I wish to stress that the proposals are all about better management of our town centre roads and on-street parking spaces, not about raising revenues.
In the evenings and especially on Sundays, our streets our full of parked cars whilst there are many empty parking spaces in off-street car parks.
There are benefits for all of us, including town centre businesses, in encouraging the use of car parks and increasing the turnover of parking spaces on the roads.
Other towns have already introduced these changes and there is no substantiated evidence to show that reasonable parking charges deter visitors to town centres.
I look forward to what county councillors have to say at the Area Committee on Thursday and will listen carefully to the comments of the wider community
Take part in our on-line poll:
The Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce said: Harrogate Chamber always takes an interest in changes to parking charges and provision, so we will be looking at this in detail. We are always concerned about anything that may deter people from coming into the town centre. We know that many businesses are suffering following the changes to road layouts and pedestrian crossings around Harrogate, which are causing long tailbacks, and these changes to parking charges are likely to be another deterrent to shoppers. It is more important than ever to support small and independent businesses so the Chamber will continue to work actively on their behalf.
Local business owner, Brian Dunsby said: Harrogate’s economy depends largely on visitors – for business and leisure. So anything that discourages them will be detrimental to the viability of some of our local hospitality businesses. The proposed £2 evening charge for on-street parking will be particularly frustrating for our night-time economy who already see the main multi-storey car parks closing around 7.30pm, leaving little choice but the on-street spaces. Of the large multi-storey car parks, both Victoria and West Park close around 7pm leaving only the Jubilee open until 10pm (Sun-Wed or 12 midnight Thu-Sat. Likewise Harrogate’s “free” parking on Sunday is a magnet for many visitors and the County Council’s arguments are simply not valid.
We begin to wonder if NYCC Highways realise that their recurring interference with Harrogate’s traffic and parking arrangements is strongly resented by many local business owners who feel that remote control from Northallerton is detrimental to our visitor economy.
Peter Jesper, Jespers of Harrogate and based in Oxford Street said: Harrogate Town Centre has seen a dramatic erosion of accessibility for shoppers over the last 15 years with the introduction of on-street parking charges and the systematic culling of the free disc parking facilities that did lend the district’s shoppers the opportunity to pop in to town to shop at what was a highly desirable and diverse retail environment.
I believe that traders have to now accept a certain level of on-street parking charges as part of the mix, but the dramatic reduction in disc parking has discouraged so many locals from driving into town and shopping locally (many of my family, friends and neighbours now rarely venture into the centre at all – What a shame!). The opportunity to briefly visit our town centre free for a ‘quick hour’ without fear of charges and traffic warden activity has now all but gone and I well remember the buoyant after-school trade many shopkeepers enjoyed later each week day when families drove into town to buy their essentials; having parked up for 20-30 minutes for free.
Footfall is the source of our income stream and new charges for Sundays and out of hours as well as further reduction of the disc parking etc; will only serve to reduce the footfall further for the daytime, night time and Sunday economies – All to the further detriment of our town centre offering.
Retailers and the Chamber have regularly tried to instigate meaningful discussions to bring these concerns to the attention of decision makers, but to the frustration of many, there seems to be little understanding of the pressures traders face within the centre and no appetite to communicate/engage/consult/understand the business needs of our stores and restaurants. We’ve previously proposed schemes to encourage after school trade again by suggestion that ‘Free after 3:00’ parking on certain zones etc. But now the farcical proposals to now bleed Sunday and after hours visitors just sums up in my mind the blinkered approach of those who control access to our streets have – Speak to us – Listen to us – Help us for goodness sake!
Mike Procter, M Procter Opticians: Why does Jubilee close at 10pm on days when there are events are on at Theatre, HIC or Royal Hall? I recently had to leave a Royal Hall event at the interval to move the car from the Jubilee on to street parking. There were a lot of people doing the same and most were not from Harrogate and grumbling profusely.
Could Jubilee closing please be moved to mid-night every night. It should be a service not just a profit centre. Shutting at 10pm risks damaging our visitor based economy.
Steve Pepper, Steve Pepper Training Associates: As a local business providing food safety training to many establishments and people in the Harrogate area I feel very strongly about these changes. I would personally object to any increase in the rates or times or reductions on available free parking.
I feel that this deters people away from our town centre and therefore has an adverse effect on the economy of the town.
This does not directly affect me as a trainer, but if town centre businesses aren’t doing well then it certainly, indirectly, affects my business. I then pick up less requests for food safety training as people are tightening their belts and trying to save on costs.
What many people don’t realise is that the “multiplier effect” affects the fortune of everyone who works and lives in the town.
For example if local businesses aren’t doing well as a direct result of these changes then I don’t earn as much.
If I earn less then I don’t have as much disposable income. Therefore I can’t spend as much locally and I have to start looking at ways of cutting back.
This ultimately has a downwards spiralling effect on the local economy.
Multiply this by the hundreds and thousands of people who rely directly or indirectly on money coming into Harrogate then it certainly makes a difference.
Perhaps people can see that even a small rise in these parking charges has a potentially much larger adverse effect on the town’s economy.
The proposals will now be discussed at the Harrogate Area Committee on Thursday, 28 May 2015. The Area Committee is formed off Harrogate County Councillors and a number of non-voting co-opted members.