An action plan for parking in Ellesmere Port once the popular Free after 3 scheme is scrapped has been unveiled by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
The council says the aim is to ensure parking in the town ‘is fit for purpose and positively contributes to the town’s economy’.
The council has about 1,170 bays over several car parks in the town centre with charges from as low as 50p.
The issue has long been controversial with campaigners insisting the public ‘really want the town to become free to park’ to boost town centre shops.
Designed to ‘better manage car parking demand across the town’ the measures are said to be part of the borough’s 15-year parking strategy.
They will see ‘fairer and consistent’ charges across different car parks, ‘attractive’ offers to replace Free after 3 and an investment programme to improve the quality of car parking and attract more visitors and shoppers.
The council’s cabinet member for environment, Ellesmere Port Whitby ward councillor Karen Shore (Lab), said: “Our population and car ownership rates are steadily rising and land available for car parking is decreasing.
“Over the coming years the council needs to invest in car parks so that we have enough clean and safe spaces, in the right places, with clear signage and new technology to make it easier and more convenient for people coming to Ellesmere Port town centre by car.
“With this action plan for Ellesmere Port we are introducing the right offers in the right places to encourage visitors, improving disabled provision and reducing congestion and air pollution.”
She added: “Parking in the town will be easier and more accessible for everyone, supporting residents and businesses. Changes to parking charges to make them simpler will ensure everyone can park where they need to.
“To support businesses better and to increase the time shoppers spend in the town we want to introduce a range of more flexible offers to encourage trade throughout the day and ease the pressure on the evening peak hour.
“The current Free after 3 scheme services a small amount of people so instead we’re bringing in a range of offers that cater for all types of people wanting to visit Ellesmere Port.”
Key actions in the plan include:
Changes to parking tariffs - the council believes changes to parking charges will help to support short stay parking in central car parks and encourage longer stay parking at the town’s outer facilities. This will see simplified, reduced rates being implemented which are easier to understand.
Town centre – maintain current tariff (weekdays); Civic centre – increased long stay rate to ensure availability; Shrewsbury Road - cheaper tariff to encourage demand; McGarva Way – cheaper tariff to encourage demand; Wellington Road North – cheaper tariff to encourage demand; Westminster – flat rate tariff to increase demand.
A flat rate of 50p all day will be introduced across all car parks on Saturdays which is cheaper than current rates in all car parks for stays above two hours, the council points out.
Investment in maintaining and improving car parks:
The council explains it has committed to ensuring that: car parks are safe and clean; there is enough parking for people with mobility problems; good signage is provided; ew technology is introduced to make visits easier and flexible.
To support this, local parking provision in need of maintenance has been identified within the action plan and a programme of long-term investment will ensure that all facilities are brought up to standard.
A programme of improvement work will start between January and June 2018.
The council says the works to be carried out will raise the standard of the most used car parks to the best industry levels.
Lighting and CCTV improvements will be carried out to improve driver safety and users’ experience particularly after dark.
Signage within car parks and on streets will direct drivers to the most suitable car park, including up-to-date information on space availability to assist visitors.
The introduction of new technology offering a range of payment methods, including cards and phones, will make visits easier and more flexible.
The size, quality and number of spaces for drivers with mobility issues will be improved.
Options to replace Free after 3:
Analysis suggests that Free after 3 is having only a limited impact while contributing to the evening peak in traffic and air pollution the council suggests.
Alternative offers include: reduced tariffs in some car parks; weekend discounts; offers during quiet seasonal periods.
Offers such as spend and save are said to be ‘a key option’ the council will look to develop with businesses with participating retailers refunding or part-paying for parking charges when customers spend with them.
Cllr Shore added: “We’re making big strides with this action plan to really invest in our car parks for the future.
“The fairest way to generate the income needed to make this level of investment and contribute towards the savings the council must make is for those who use the service and who own a car to contribute.”
The full action plan can be found at https://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/parkingstrategy2017.
A number of traffic regulation orders will be published soon detailing the plans to change restrictions and tariffs. They will be available to view through the same web site.