By Lee Trewhela - LDRS
Proposals for new parking tariffs in Cornwall Council car parks will be amended following feedback from local communities. However, the changes have been met with disappointment and dismay by many businesses and residents, particularly around evening charges, which one councillor has dubbed ‘profoundly stupid’.
A business leader stated: “I’m not exaggerating when I say town centre businesses may not survive this latest imposition.”
Cornwall’s 135 pay and display and pay on foot car parks will continue to be grouped into one of three ‘zones’ with Zone A being the busiest areas which are well served by public transport and walking and cycle routes.
Reflecting the views of the public consultation, several car parks will now move to a different zone and charges will no longer be introduced between November 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024 in car parks which have previously been free during the winter. As previously reported, free evening parking in Zone A car parks was due to be increased to £2.50 but the charge will now be £2.
The price of multi-session tickets will decrease by 50% for Zone A car parks bringing the cost down to just £2.50 per session/day. Multi-session tickets for Zone B car parks have also been cut – from £3 to £2 per session/day. The new tariffs will be introduced from the end of May.
Blue badge holders with adapted vehicles or vehicles exempt from car tax will continue to be able to park for free in Cornwall Council car parks.
Other changes include multi-use sessions to be available in all long stay car parks, Porthtowan Beach car park – to move to a Zone C in the summer, Riverbank and Killimorth car parks in Looe to move to a Zone B in the summer and Zone C in the winter, St Erbyns car park in Penzance to move to Zone B in the summer and Zone C in the winter, Caffa Mill car park Fowey to move from a Zone A to a Zone B in the summer, and amended season ticket prices to Zone C at Castle Green in Helston.
Connor Donnithorne, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport, said: “The changes we have made to our initial proposals reflects the large number of responses we received from residents in Cornwall. Initiatives such as lower bus fares and the improvements we have made to walking and cycling routes provide a cheaper and greener way to travel and I hope that those who can make changes to their journeys, will.
“However, I appreciate that this isn’t suitable for all – and at a time when wallets are increasingly stretched we have considered the needs of those who have no choice but to use our car parks on a regular basis and made changes to the cost of multi-session tickets. Income from car park charges not only helps to maintain car parks but also supports the council’s wider transport service and without that income, we’d need to find other ways to generate that money.”
Despite the reductions in some areas, many people have greeted the news with disappointment and anger.
A spokesperson for Truro Business Improvement District (BID) – which promotes trade in the city – said: “Whilst some proposals for new parking tariffs in other towns will be amended following feedback from local communities, Truro still is set to lose free evening parking and see increases in short term parking cost from the end of May. This means there would be parking charges between 9am and midnight in Truro. However, the parking charges original proposed for £2.50 for 6pm to midnight have been reduced to £2.
“We are very disappointed with the revised proposals and will be contacting Cornwall Council as we believe the end of free evening parking in Truro will have a very negative impact on the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.”On a positive note, the multi-use tickets, available via Just Park which are not well publicised by Cornwall Council, will be reduced to £2.50 for each 24-hour session (currently cost £4) for Truro from the end of May.”
Cath King, who runs the Old Bakery business hub and arts venue in the city, has written to Cllr Donnithorne with her concerns. She said: “The current system of free parking after 4pm is a huge business and customer incentive, an invaluable marketing tool for Visit Truro. Introduced in 2018, it was a great, essential and much-needed boost the evening economy in the city.”
She added that it had boosted trade for Truro BID’s businesses, Hall For Cornwall, the city’s restaurants and venues including her own, which attracts up to 250 people on Fridays and Saturdays for entertainment events.
“The ease of the free parking from 4pm makes the city and its facilities much easier to access for just so many people, and very importantly provides support to many hard working residents who have no choice but to drive to work and cannot park near their homes.
“The stance on this issue seems to us counter-intuitive, as it is placing yet another burden on all the wonderful, passionate local small businesses. Personally, I have been approached by hundreds of people, including Sing Truro Choir, 70 + people who find the community choir an absolute lifeline, who are so very grateful that the council car parks are free after 4pm,” said Mrs King.
“It is my strong view that the PR outfall and collateral damage to small business income and morale will far outweigh the small revenue gain received by Cornwall Council. There have already been numerous social media threads and comments all over the place from dozens of Truro businesses. Surely there is another way? Put daytime prices up by £1. Surely this would raise far more revenue as it’s not masses of people that park in the evenings.”
Sharron Lipscombe-Manley, town centre business owner and chair of BID Camborne, said: “Cornwall Council’s proposed changes to car parking charges will help kill off town centres. Shop owners are doing all they can to keep going but Covid, the ongoing cost of living crisis and online and out of town competition from huge, national brands means they are facing an uphill battle that is seriously affecting the mental health of many.
“Surely the council should be encouraging people to visit town centres rather than actively discouraging them with significant parking charge increases? Why is parking at out-of-town sites free? It’s not a level playing field and that just isn’t fair.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say town centre businesses may not survive this latest imposition. The council should be listening to us – rather than hammering yet another nail into our coffin.”
Tim Dwelly, independent Cornwall councillor for Penzance East, said the changes “could have been way worse, but it’s still bad”.
He added: “There has been a partial climbdown on new charges, after many of us challenged the logic of the Conservative Council’s wild inflationary price hikes. Thanks to everyone who responded to the consultation.
“St Erbyns will be free at night. But all other Penzance car parks including Wharfside will charge at night in the summer. A profoundly stupid idea in Penzance which will affect evening businesses and residents. People driving to town to gyms, cinemas, cafés, restaurants, bars, theatre, clubs, etc will perhaps stay away or park in residential back-streets to avoid charges.
“In Penzance we don’t have resident permits. So if we don’t have free 4pm to 9am parking in car parks those visitors will almost certainly clog up the back streets. Just when many of you are returning home from work. I did try really hard to make this point to the parking team and to cabinet member Councillor Connor Donnithorne. But I’m afraid they refused to come to visit Penzance to have a local parking meeting with councillors, TC, BID and businesses.”
Replying to Mr Dwelly, Carolyn Waters said: “Very disappointed with the loss of overnight free parking. Not only will local businesses suffer but residents who also rely on somewhere to park their vehicles overnight.”
Cornwall Council runs 280 car parks, 145 of which are free. Full details about parking charges can be found at www.cornwall.gov.uk/parking