North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive has today (Tuesday, 16 August 2016) approved the introduction of on-street pay and display parking charges in Harrogate town on Sunday between 10am and 6pm.
The decision follows a consultation and a joint review with Harrogate Borough Council of on-street and off-street parking in the town. It is expected the charges will be implemented in October.
These changes have received little support from the public, with by far the majority viewing them as a bad move for the town.
Justification for the introduction of the charges is that vehicles are staying longer on a Sunday than the Monday to Saturday maximum stay period and that off-street car parks have capacity to accommodate more vehicles throughout the day.
Harrogate Borough Council are set to make thousands from greater use of their off-street car parks and County Council will directly pick up the money taken from the parking ticket machines.
Local retailers, pubs and restaurants are set to loose out as people will be more inclined to cut short a visit to the town centre or change shopping habits with a visit elsewhere.
At this stage, a proposal relating to evening charges throughout the week will not be implemented, but County Council say that further work will be done by the joint review group before they are implemented.
In the time since we published our original proposals, more than a year ago, we made every effort to engage people and listen to what they had to say. I have also attended two meetings of the Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce to receive comments at first hand and answer many questions posed by chamber members. In response to the points raised, we gathered further evidence, which I believe provides a sound justification for the decision on Sunday charging.
I realise some people believe these charges will have a detrimental impact on Harrogate, but I am not aware of any conclusive evidence that reasonable parking charges have a negative impact on town centre economies. I believe introducing charges and encouraging more rapid turnover or premium parking spaces on-street on Sundays will be good for businesses, because at the moment on Sundays those streets are fully parked up, people have no incentive to move on and many people are simply parking for convenience and are not going into shops, restaurants or pubs to support our economy.
Proposals for Sunday charges and extended evening charges were the subject of a ten-week consultation between July and September last year.
In response to issues raised during the consultation, revised proposals were presented to the County Council’s Harrogate Area Committee for consideration in November.
The Area Committee rejected changes at that time, but recommended the further joint review of on-street and off-street parking with Harrogate Borough Council.
County Councillor David Simister (UKIP, Bilton & Nidd Gorge), who has opposed the introduction of Sunday and evening parking charges, said:
This unanimous vote by the cabinet comes as no surprise at all.
I still maintain this is not about benefitting traders and shoppers, but is all about raising revenue for the county council by way of a parking tax.
Internet shopping and out of town retail centres are having a damaging impact on town centres across the country. What North Yorkshire County Council should be doing is encouraging people to come and shop and eat in the town, instead of penalising them.
And mark my words, they will be looking again at an evening parking levy too!
It may also see a rise in drink drive issues with drivers choosing to either drive home on the night or return for 10am to pick a car up, while still being over the legal alcohol limit.
It is very apparent that this is a damaging development and is driven by cash-strapped councils drive to raise more revenue, with any means they reasonably. It is unfortunate this will be at the overall detriment to Harrogate.