Views sought again on Dales car parking changes

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A new public consultation drive on proposed car parking changes in the Derbyshire Dales starts on 21 May.

The first detailed policy review in 10 years of public car parks across the Derbyshire Dales began at the end of January this year and feedback to date from local residents and traders has helped shape a series of new ideas.

Fifteen recommendations drawn up by a special review sub-committee will be considered by Derbyshire Dales District Council’s Environment Committee on 16 May.

The options agreed by that Committee will go out to a four-week public consultation from 21 May, when feedback will be available by post and online at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/parkingreview. A campaign including posters, leaflets and social media prompts will urge users to have their say.

The District Council operates 33 pay and display car parks throughout the Dales and the consultation programme has already included community forums, focus groups with traders, residents, disability groups and town and parish councils. The views of stakeholder organisations like the County Council, Visit Peak District and Chamber of Commerce have also been sought. These groups will be consulted again.

Final policy recommendations will be made in July ahead of a new car parking policy being adopted by a full meeting of the District Council on 25 July, with implementation set for 1 October this year.

Initial recommendations to be considered by councillors next week include the introduction of a 30-minute charge in designated short stay town centre car parks and a flat rate £1 charge from 6am to 6pm for evening/overnight parking to promote the night-time economy.

Also proposed is a machine replacement programme offering car park users the ability to pay for the first time by card or phone as well as cash.

A big question for the Environment Committee is what charge - if any - to suggest for the residents’ parking permit that is currently posted free to all 33,000 households in the district, enabling them to park free of charge at every District Council car park before 11am and after 4pm every day of the week. The permit currently costs the District Council around £2.5-million a year in lost revenue.

Other options to be explored include introducing a £100 second permit for households and charging Blue Badge holders, who currently have free use of the District Council’s car parks, but allowing an additional one hour free parking on top of any paid time.

A key aim of the review is to create a new policy that at least maintains the current level of income at around £2.5-million a year. Car parking income currently plays a huge part in meeting the cost of services for the 6.9 million visitors to the Derbyshire Dales every year and without this income from paying visitors, Council Tax payers across the Dales would face a rise of over 35%.

Leading the review, Director of Planning & Housing Services Paul Wilson said: “We are conscious this review, which is long awaited, touches on some sensitive areas and it is right that local people should once again have an opportunity to have their say before any final decisions are made.

“A lot of work has been done to compare the Derbyshire Dales’ current policy to similar destinations across the UK. It simply isn’t appropriate to look at the charging policy of neighbouring areas, where only Chesterfield has anywhere near the same number of visitors.

“That is why we have focussed on other tourism destinations in the UK with similar visitor numbers, together with places such as Harrogate, which has an almost identical number of day visitors and, like the Dales, is an area of outstanding natural beauty, fringes a national park and includes a large rural area. From this list, the Derbyshire Dales is easily the cheapest place to park.”

Mr Wilson added: “What the review sets out to achieve is a sensible balance between the demands of the local economy and the obvious need to protect our Council Tax payers, who cannot be expected to pick up the whole cost of paying for services for millions of visitors. An area like the Derbyshire Dales, which receives less Government cash than any other district in the county, simply cannot afford to lose the significant income it receives from parking charges.

“So while we are taking a more flexible approach, there would be consequences, for example, to introducing a new 30-minute charge, where migration from the one-hour tariff would cost at least £25,000 a year. To make ideas like this happen we would need to increase charges elsewhere in the pricing structure to make up for this shortfall.”