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Exeter City Council could U-turn on car park charges

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

  • PLANS to make widespread changes to parking charges in the city could be reviewed after Exeter City Council received hundreds of objections

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PLANS to make widespread changes to parking charges in the city could be reviewed after Exeter City Council received hundreds of objections.

Moves which could see Howell Road and Magdalen Road (formerly Fairpark) become short-stay car parks with the cost of parking for two to three hours almost doubling from £1.70 to £3.30 are the focus of the majority of the objections.

They are led by workers in Southernhay, with the city's Chamber of Commerce also making representations.

Many employees of firms in Southernhay with Exeter City Council season tickets use these car parks, but will no longer be able to do so once their permits expire. They claim that the changes are being made to "accommodate short-term visitors to the city in order to increase revenue rather than looking after the needs of local people who live and work in Exeter", also arguing that the consultation was "poorly advertised" with many only finding out the changes were to be made when the period for making objections was almost at an end.

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At a meeting of the council's scrutiny economy committee last week, Rachel Sutton, city councillor responsible for transport, revealed that at least 270 objections have been received and, as a result, it is understood that elements of the proposals could be reviewed including changes at Howell Road and Magdalen Road.

Derek Phillips, vice president of Exeter Chamber of Commerce said: "We have made representations both at a meeting with senior council officers and also in writing. We are hopeful the issues raised will be carefully deliberated and taken into consideration before any final decisions."

The Echo revealed the proposed changes last year with the city council saying the changes, which also affect a number of other car parks, came as a result of recommendations made by a cross-party working group. Charges at 10 city council car parks will remain unchanged, including Guildhall, John Lewis and Mary Arches.

And charges at seven car parks, including Holman Way in Topsham and Okehampton Street, are set to decrease. In Okehampton Street, the cost of parking for three to four hours will drop from £1.70 to £1.20.

A city council spokesman said: "The all-party councillor group was looking at ways to make our parking tariff structure simpler and more coherent, so that customers know they will pay the same charges in every car park of the same category – premium, short stay, long stay etc.

"City centre car parks are primarily priced to encourage short-stay customers who come to shop and then leave, freeing up space for other shoppers. It is this turnover that supports the city-centre retail economy and is one of the council's key strategic objectives. Car parks near the city centre are not designed to provide long-stay parking for commuters; commuter parking is available (along with season tickets) at six other car parks that are not that far from where people need to get to.

"The council has sustainable transport and carbon reduction objectives and should not be providing city-centre parking at below what the market will pay. Workers affected by changes in a minority of car parks have plenty of other parking options, can pay the higher charges in the city-centre car parks if they do wish to do so or could use park and ride."

He added: "At a time when our funding from central government has been cut by 27 per cent over four years, we need to be businesslike in generating income from our assets in order to continue to provide high-quality services and amenities. The cut-off point for objections was Monday. There will be a meeting on Thursday to look at objections and discuss it further."

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