/ Money, Motoring, Shopping

Should we pay more to park in town?

Parking sign

Car parking prices are set to soar in Cambridge – is this a sensible way of providing only essential access to a town’s amenities and businesses? Or does car use need to be discouraged from towns altogether?

As the squeeze on public spending intensifies (the bonfire of the quangos this week; the comprehensive spending review next week), councils are surely going to be thinking about putting prices of public amenities up.

Perhaps in a similar vein to Oxfordshire’s money-saving decision to turn off speed cameras, Cambridgeshire County Council is now eyeing a potential £260,000 boost to annual revenues by raising its parking charges.

In the first price rises since 2001, annual permits could go up by £7 to £26. Plus, on-street parking in central Cambridge could go up by between 50p and £1 per hour. To sweeten the pill, there’s a plan to cut parking prices in some bays on the edge of the city centre by 20p per hour.

Time to take the bus?

Presumably the plan (which will take effect from April if approved) is to encourage you to drive to the edge, park and walk in – or maybe use the Park and Ride scheme. Perhaps small medieval university cities need stricter limits on how much parking is allowed or encouraged. But does that hold true everywhere?

And what about the harm this will have on businesses? Restricting parking will not only mean a drop in visitors, but also reduced access for suppliers and deliveries. And people who don’t qualify for the Blue Badge scheme but find it hard to walk are going to find it tough (or expensive) to get into town.

How the figures add up

The council says that these increases are being ‘backed by savings plans’ and should ‘ensure the cost of providing the services does not exceed the available budget’. In other words, keeping parking as it is could result in them losing money.

That’s an interesting prospect. Lots of councils do lose money on parking, which could make other councils ‘do an Oxfordshire’ and (like speed cameras) turn parking off altogether…

But as several of you commented on the clamping and towing on private land Conversation, unfettered parking can be very bad news. And while car parking isn’t always a money-spinner, some councils make a fortune from it (Westminster makes around £15m in profit each year).

Unless they’re ranked ‘excellent’ by the (soon to be chopped) Audit Commission, councils have to spend any extra income on their transport services. Cambridgeshire says its parking income supports its park and ride and Shopmobility schemes.

Well, at least that might make you feel better when you cough up more to park in Cambridge. Will higher charges encourage you to get the bus, pay more to park centrally – or just go somewhere else altogether?

Higher car parking charges would make me:

Park further away and walk or use the Park and Ride (49%, 112 Votes)

Still park in town and pay more (21%, 48 Votes)

I don't drive so it's not an issue (16%, 36 Votes)

Use public transport or cycle (14%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 229

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When I visit a major town/city and pump seven or eight pounds into a parking meter, I feel I’ve been robbed. Yet, I might spend the same on a lunch, a gallon(and a bit) of diesel for the car, three quarters of a haircut, something to read or a few bags of fruit and veg from the market. Is renting a small space of tarmac for a few hours any different from the above? The perception is that parking should be free or, at least peanuts. This is probably because most out of town malls are free-if you can find a place to park and don’t mind queuing to get in and out. The basis of all transactions seems to be: they’ve got something I want; what’s it worth to me to have it? On top of this ( for car parking) is the notion that the marketing of road space for parking or congestion charging is somehow immoral and we’re being ripped off. Space is limited in town and one way to ration it is to charge for it. I hate parking fees as much as anyone else, but wonder how rational that reaction actually is!


” Is renting a small space of tarmac for a few hours any different from the above?”

I think it is. The difference is when you go into a shop to buy things you’re paying a business for their products. We already pay for the public road out of all the taxes we all pay, Council Tax, Income tax etc And more tax revenue is raised by those shops being there, open for business and paying their business rates as a result of your custom. Their shop rent keeps property companies open which also pays hefty tax etc…Plenty of tax is raised to cover what they make from parking charges. Why should we pay for the same thing again? To use your comparison it’d be like going to pay for your coffee in Costa, and then being charged for it again due to the space you took up in the shop to sit and drink it. You wouldnt get charged for your petrol twice due to the space you took up on the forecourt. You wouldnt get billed twice for your haircut due to renting the chair during the haircut etc In the case of the congestion charge, most of the money goes to a private company to fund the running of the scheme and with Hybrids being exempt despite being the same size as any other car shows its nothing to do with road space or congestion, its all a greenwash. (I own a Hybrid by the way). Charges in council car parks are generally reasonable, the extortionate fees from private companies which doesnt benefit the area at all should be banned. But the idea of ‘rationing roadspace’ limits the traffic you can accomodate which affects the economy, surely we should invest in ways to get more people to park, more people to use the town at once and more people spending money.

Jonny says:
24 February 2011

The ultimate aim must be to get cars out of our city centres – they poison the air we breath, congest our roads and clutter up our kerbsides, making cities much less pleasant places to be, particularly for pedestrians.

However, high parking charges can only be justified if a good alternative is in place. Perhaps the law needs to be a bit cleverer – councils can put parking charges up as much as they like – on the condition that there is a specified level of alternatives in place.

Also, in order to create a more level playing field, I think out of town developments should be charged a parking levy.

City centres can be lively, vibrant, beautiful places – we need to protect them.


“The ultimate aim must be to get cars out of our city centres – they poison the air we breath, congest our roads and clutter up our kerbsides, making cities much less pleasant places to be, particularly for pedestrians”

Incorrect. Buses pollute city centres far more than cars, the particulates chucked out by the stoneage style diesel engines are far more dangerous than todays modern, very clean cars (and some Hybrids dont use their engine at slow city speeds at all, causing zero pollution) and a bus puts out up to 60 times more nox gases than an average car. Cars are not to blame for this sort of thing at all. Policies which ban cars and increase bus use only increases pollution and is not founded on science but rather anti-car political correctness. ‘Clutter up our kerbsides’ thats where cars park, what else would you be doing with the kerbside? Football tournament? People who say ‘cars make cities bad for pedestrians’ are talking nonsense, all pedestrians have to do is look both ways before crossing the road and they’ll be fine. Thats what i was brought up to do. You only seem interested in making it ‘pleasant’ for one group of people (pedestrians) but unpleasant for anyone who dares to travel there by (cleaner than buses) cars. Surely you need to incorperate everybody. As for ‘congesting our roads’ thats what roads are for, for cars to travel on. Traffic is the lifeblood of every economy. The day when roads are empty you’ll have FAR bigger problems than a cluttered kerbside. Such as no economy, no shops, no jobs, no work, no money, no city, no point.

If you want cleaner city air, campaign for a blanket ban on all buses from entering the city and encourage people to use cars instead. My mother is disabled and has no alternative to a car, and people like you are curtailing her freedom to use her car to go where she wants, due to a hate of the motorcar which is not based on science or logic, but on a hatrid of ‘clutter’ which i find very odd.


Snaggletooth says:
26 August 2011

I accept that parking charges in towns and cities are probably necessary, and am prepared to pay for the privilege, so long as the charges are fair and reasonable. I am beginning to get very angry about having to pay for parking “by the hour”. Many car parks issue tickets on entry and one pays before leaving, but how often one finds that having stayed for 2hours 5 minutes one is charged for 3 hours! Reason – more income. When I was on holiday in Murcia, Spain I noted that the car parks in the city centre charged by the minute. Stay as long as you wish and pay accordingly, and furthermore no parking fines for overrunning the time limit! I seem to remember similar issues with mobile phone charging a few years ago.

Some things that councils need to be aware of:
As Jonny reported City centres are vibrant, beautiful places and wealth generating hubs of our regions and we need to encourage people to visit as tourists and as locals alike. Parking charging policies should reflect this. There are so many out of town shopping centres where parking is free and within easy reach of the amenities Our city centres are losing out as a result.
Parking policies need to reflect the specific needs of the town or city, but all too often the policy is biased towards a commercially driven income stream. I live in Newcastle one of the few places to charge for parking on Sunday.Why? More income! Comparatively speaking we do not have significant congestion problems and apart from very occasional times at Christmas parking is generally easy to obtain.
There is a hard fact of life that the majority of people want to come to our cities by car, either as residents or visitors. We should never underestimate the the commercial benefits as a result. There needs to be a radical improvement in public transport policy (eg free to city centres) before I can see any change to this. Although come to think about it, being over 60 and possessing a free bus pass I still prefer to go by car – why do think that is?