All-day Torbay parking fees reduced as review gets under way
PARKING charges on prime seafront sites in Torquay and Paignton are to be reduced as part of an overhaul of Bay charges.
But Bay business people were warned that if income dropped when charges are changed, council services could be hit at a time when the authority is facing a £10million budget cut.
For months local businesses have been calling on the town hall to reconsider its parking policies to try to draw shoppers back into town centres where the tough summer has hit hard.
Councillor for transport Robert Excell told Torbay Business Forum they had had further meetings with business people and the promised review was well under way.
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One measure already agreed following a short-term review was reducing the all-day parking charge on Torquay and Paignton seafronts to £2.50 from £4 from early November until Easter.
All-day charges in coastal car parks are also being reduced to £1.50 during the winter.
The Christmas free parking promotions would continue, he said.
The council is also working with the Herald Express on promotions.
Patrick Carney, highways boss, explained a previous review had found extra parking spaces by removing yellow lines, 81 in Torquay and 21 in Paignton.
They planned to look at Brixham town centre next year and possibly the secondary shopping areas in future.
They would be looking at introducing pay on exit in the Lower Union Lane car park in Torquay and possibly at the Victoria Car Park in Paignton once its future was decided.
The full review is expected at the end of the year.
Mr Carney said: "To do a full review takes a lot of time. We are looking at the parking price structure, comparing with neighbouring and other seaside towns. Maybe we can explore some of the myths, are we expensive, how do we compare? Maybe we will find we are not as expensive as some people think.
"We will also be looking at how parking prices have gone up over the years with inflation and some of the permits we offer."
But Mr Carney warned: "The review will be linked to the budgets. The income the council receives from parking they reinvest into transport and highway improvements, into repairing infrastructure. That will be a hard decision to make."
Susie Colley said businesses had asked for an urgent review as some were suffering because of falling footfall and some were going out of business while the review was under way.
Mr Carney said their figures showed that footfall had not fallen that much, and that it shot up when there were events in the towns.
He said: "There are some myths around parking prices. The success of a town centre is not wholly based on parking prices. There are many factors including what they have to offer, the competition, the weather, events and other issues.
"When businesses say they are suffering that is not reflected in a drop of people using our car parks.
"They are using the car parks, perhaps they don't have so much money to spend in town. But if I half the cost of parking, I don't double the number of customers. "
Cllr Excell said business organisations had come up with many suggestions.
"All these different ideas come at a cost, they mean extra work, and resources are under pressure. We are looking at these suggestions and seeing if they are viable.
"We are seeing what the cost is, because at the end of the day it will have an effect on the budget.
"We are listening and we are analysing the ideas, this is why we needed the extra time."