Evening and Sunday parking charges are back on the agenda. North Yorkshire County Council say that they have undertaken parking usage studies during April this year. From those studies a report is being compiled which will form the basis for a decision by the County Council Executive.
We have put questions to Councillors Don Mackenzie, Richard Cooper and Rebecca Burnett.
Don Mackenzie is a County Councillor for Saltergate, Executive Member with responsibility for Highways and a Borough Councillor for Harlow Ward.
Questions to Cllr Mackenzie
What has prompted the review of parking charges with the town centre of Harrogate ?
All policies and charges are regularly reviewed as they should be. Good parking practice recommends that parking in town centres should be encouraged to take place off-street, and that charges should help in that process. At the moment it is free to park everywhere on-street in Harrogate, whilst car parks charge. That does not encourage off-street parking. Nor does it bring about the regular turnover in premium parking spaces which is good for business.
What are the current proposed changes ?
Charging on Sundays 10am until 6pm and evert evening 6pm-7.30pm
The Highways Department undertook a study of evening and weekend parking, during April, please could you explain further what they did ?
Full survey will be published by NYCC in about two weeks
When do you anticipate that the Highways report will be available, who will it be available to ?
Estimate by end July, a public document. Nothing will be confidential.
How long after the publication of the highways report will a decision be made and who will make that decision ?
About two weeks but 2 months after publication of survey details.
You have said that any money raised will go into highways work, will that then mean that less money would be given to highways from the central budget ?
Council budgets have been cut by about 40% since 2010 so there is less available anyway for highways work. Extra to that budget, on-street parking surpluses have always been spent on transport-related schemes, including rail improvements like twin-tracking, additional highways improvements, traffic models and surveys, concessionary fares, funding of bids for major highways/transport improvements. We recently took the decision to include £100k a year each for sustainable travel (cycling and walking) and Air Quality Management schemes (like Bond End, Knaresborough). Many of these are designed to reduce congestion in our town centres, particularly Harrogate.
Why are you continuing with the process towards change, even though there is strong resistance to it from local business an the general public ?
Because it is right to do so in order to manage the traffic and reduce congestion.
Richard Cooper is a Borough Councillor for High Harrogate, Leader of the Borough Council and a County Councillor for the Central Division.
Questions to Cllr Cooper
At the recent area committee meeting you made comment that businesses should demonstrate that the changes are detrimental. Could you explain further what you believe they should do and what NYCC should do to demonstrate any changes are justified ?
The rationale behind parking charges for two decades has been that they encourage a turnover of parking spaces so more people can get in to town and therefore more is spent in local shops. From what has been said local shops are saying that parking charges in fact damage their trade.
There is a simple way to prove this. A comparison of the hourly takings on a Sunday where there are currently no on-street charges with a Saturday where there are will give that indication. And if this comparison demonstrates that trade is significantly damaged by parking charges then it may be that there is an argument to be made to the County Council for further reductions throughout the week and to the District Council for reductions in the off street car parks which we run.
Equally, the County Council need to demonstrate that spaces are not turning over on a Sunday and that this is damaging trade. I think it is reasonable to expect this evidence to come forward too.
We need the big picture about what is happening in our town centre and that cannot be provided by a Council alone. Gathering the evidence and building that picture is a partnership between Councils, residents and businesses.
You have commented that a mass of signatures on petition is not always representative of the real public opinion.
What credit will you give to any petitions on this issue or are there other ways people can be heard ?
I give enormous credit to well-argued statements supported by evidence. If this is backed by a large number of people this adds to that credit. If 1,000 people signed a petition that said ‘Harrogate Council should stop giving grants to charities’ I would not then immediately stop all our grants to charities. I would need to see the evidence behind the statement that supported the argument. I think evidence to support that particular statement would be hard to find but I am sure the general point about the importance of good evidenced reasons backed by good numbers is demonstrated.
As an elected Borough Councillor and County Councillor, will you support the local businesses who say that they don’t want additional parking charges?
I think it is reasonable to expect me to be able to see the evidence provided by all the stakeholders and then give my considered view to the County Council based on that body of information. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence to support either case. What I, and other councillors did, was to give traders, residents and the County Council the opportunity to collect and provide that evidence and this will no doubt be put before us all in due course.
Rebecca Burnett is Borough Councillor for Rossett and Cabinet Member Planning and Sustainable Transport.
Questions to Cllr Burnett
Do you believe a review of parking in the town centre is needed, and if so why ?
It is always good practice to review the services we as local authorities provide and the charges we set. Without any review we cannot know whether there are any problems which need resolving.
How do you see that the town will benefit if the changes go through ?
I am keen to see the evidence which has been collected so I can make a judgement on whether the proposals are justified and therefore beneficial in traffic management terms to the town.
How do you see that the proposals will be detrimental to the town ?
How do these changes fit with the longer term strategy for the development of the town ?
In the long term, as two councils working together, we need to make sure that the parking offer being provided is supporting the town centre and all of its stakeholders. If there are traffic management problems in Harrogate then proposals to resolve them should be welcomed. But I have always been clear that any proposals need to be initiated by evidenced need, which is why we asked NYCC to take these proposals off the table until they had brought together evidence to prove there is a traffic management problem which needs resolving. I look forward to reading the report when it is available.
The next steps will be the publication of the survey report. Cllr Mackenzie has said that this will be available to the public, but they will not be undertaking a public consultation around it.