Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News

Debate report

12 Jul 2016 by July meeting

Coun Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Highways and Public Transport at North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), began the July meeting by outlining the council's current position on parking charges in Harrogate.

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He explained that NYCC has responsibility for on-street parking, and Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) for off-street parking, including multi-storeys. On-street parking charges were introduced for the first time in 1994, while charges have always been in place seven days a week for off-street parking.

Sunday is now one of the busiest shopping days, and unlimited parking in the town centre means drivers - especially visitors - struggle to find somewhere to park after 10am. Rather than going into the multi-storeys and paying to park, they are then circling the town centre trying to find a free space, adding to congestion.

Proposals to introduce Sunday and evening charges were put forward more than a year ago, before Coun Mackenzie took up the post. Reports and consultations have been congoing since then, and a final report will go to NYCC's Executive on 16th August. It will be made public at least two weeks before that.

The likely recommendation is the introduction of Sunday charges from 10am, but not evenings. As a general principle, the cost of parking should be lower in a multi-storey than on street, to encourage people to use larger car parks, and NYCC and HBC do discuss the rates they charge in this light.


Q: How much extra revenue will NYCC make from the new charges and how many traffic wardens will be needed?

A: If we had introduced evening charges as well, it would have been about £175,000 a year. Without that, it will be about £150,000 surplus. HBC provides wardens under agreement with NYCC and would cover Sundays too.


Q: Why can't we have disc parking instead?

A: It would cost money to change signage and to police it, so there would be a cost to the taxpayer.


Q: Have Sunday charges worked in other towns?

A: They have been introduced successfully in York and Leeds, though their proportion of on-street parking is much smaller.


Q: There is growing competition in Harrogate and businesses are struggling. Why isn't parking used as a loss leader to get people into town?

A: Regardless of the cost of parking, that competition will exist.


Q: Why not make off-street parking free to get people to use it?

A: We have looked at options like that and perhaps we can consider some measures like that. Moving people into off-street parking will give those car parks greater income. Perhaps HBC could introduce a differential on a Sunday, but that would be for them to decide.


Q: How many businesses have asked for Sunday charges?

A: Several businesses and organisations have responded in consultations to say they realise it is not good for business to have premium spaces taken up all day.


Q: What about town centre residents who can only park outside their homes for free on a Sunday?

A: I have a great deal of sympathy, but if we give permits to allow people to park all day on Sunday we will create the same problem as we have now. HBC may be able to look at discounted rates for people in that situation.


Q: Will the same policy be applied in other towns?

A: There are only six towns in North Yorkshire which currently charge for parking. What Harrogate really lacks is a park and ride or park and rail scheme. That is something we are working on and we want to use part of the money to prepare a bid to create that.


Q: What about the problem with coach parking?

A: We recognise that and the park and ride or rail plans may offer an oppportunity to rectify that too. It is also important to encourage people who live up to a mile from the town centre to walk or cycle if they can, for their health, and charging for parking may do that.


Q: Are most disc spaces used by locals, because visitors don't understand the system?

A: There is no research on that, but my guess would be that is the case, and visitors from further afield are struggling to park because they don't know the area well enough.


Q: Newcastle City Council introduced Live After Five free parking to encourage people to shop on an evening. Why can't we have that on a Sunday?

A: The situation is totally different - Newcaslte has very little on-street parking anyway, and the Metro has had a lot of investment to encourage people to use public transport.


Q: I came here totally against Sunday charges, but what you have said makes some sense. The general public don't understand the difference between HBC and NYCC so it doesn't matter to them. How about a flat rate that's the same between on-street and off-street on Sundays - say £1 an hour?

A: Current on-street rates in the very centre of town are 60p or 70p for half an hour, so not far off £1 an hour anyway. Off-street charges vary greatly, with Victoria and Jubilee being the most expensive. uniformity and simplicity would be useful and it is something we can look at.