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