Councillors have voted to scrap free parking periods at council car parks in Aberdeenshire.
Aberdeenshire Council passed a motion by deputy leader Peter Argyle, who represents Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, at a meeting yesterday. The plans are now set to go out for a public consultation.
It is hoped the proposals, which were passed to the full council meeting from the infrastructure services committee, will alleviate the £211,000 deficit in council parking.
The scheme will see the 30-minute free parking period scrapped, in favour of an initial charge of 50p for the first hour, rising to £1 for the second.
Stays between two and five hours will be charged at a rate of £2 and more than five hours will cost £5.
Councillor Argyle said: “It’s a difficult issue but we have no choice. There is no such thing as free parking – it all has to be paid for by someone and the taxpayers are picking up the bill.”
Councillor Argyle said the money saved by the increase would ensure savings did not have to be made in other areas, such as education.
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SNP group leader Richard Thomson tabled an amendment to the motion, based on feedback from area committees, which would keep the 30-minute free period, while increasing the cost of parking after the initial half-hour.
Mr Thomson’s amendment defeated another put forward by Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Ford, which proposed reducing the free period to 15 minutes, by 25 votes to three with 35 abstentions. When up against the motion by Mr Argyle, the amendment by Mr Thomson was voted down by 37 votes to 25, with one abstention.Councillor Argyle said: “We all recognise this is a very difficult issue, and there is a great deal of concern in the business community of the towns where this will be in effect.
“We are in a place where we simply don’t have the money to fund a more than £200,000 deficit we’re seeing from car parks every year.
“Despite the huge amount of work we’ve done to get rid of the deficit and keep the free period we are unable to do so, and on that basis, we are putting forward a package of tariffs which will actually bring down the total cost of parking.”
Mr Thomson said: “We’re very disappointed at the outcome which amounts to a slap in the face for businesses and residents across Aberdeenshire. The ruling administration has gone for what it thinks is a ‘safety first’ approach, but it’s not.
“This risks causing a multi-million-pound economic displacement in our town centres – which is out of all proportion to the revenue gap the new charges are meant to plug.
“The objective for running a car park, shouldn’t be to make money or lose money. The objective should be to break even in order to support economic development and access to services and retail.
“It’s a very disappointing day and it will be our town centres that suffer.”
The plans will now enter a period of consultation which could mean the plans are not enforced until August.