Councillors back plan to keep free parking

The pay and display car park at Market Street in Ellon
The pay and display car park at Market Street in Ellon

Councillors at the Formartine Area Committee have backed plans to keep free parking available in Ellon town centre.

A consultation process is currently ongoing to seek views on fees and charges in Pay and Display car parks, which have not changed for three years.

The current tariff structure was introduced to encourage economic activity in town centres, and while the number of visits has increased, the council now loses a significant sum of money.

Officers have been seeking views on the possibility of: removing free parking periods, increasing charges, changing the times fees are payable and the car parks where charges apply.

Currently car parks operate at a loss of around £140,000 a year, and the council wants to get closer to a position where they cover their own costs, as they have in the past.

Members of the public recently gave their opinions and now Aberdeenshire’s six area committees are being asked their views on a range of possible options.

Parking in the Ellon area was discussed at the Formartine Area Committee on Tuesday, May 15.

Councillor Gillian Owen voiced concerns that an increase in charges would have an impact on the town.

She said: “It can’t be one size fits all.

“I have a surgery at Neil Ross Square during the Ellon Farmers Market and I always get asked ‘why can’t we have an hour free?’.

“We should look to increase free periods rather than decrease or take them away.”

Cllr Isobel Davidson added: “I’d be concerned if charges were brought to small towns like Newburgh for example, it’s not reasonable to start there.

“Charges were first introduced in Ellon due to public demand as people were parking in the centre of town all day leaving no spaces for customers and businesses.

“People on Facebook feel that a small increase is acceptable but I think that the proposed charges for longer stays is too high. We also beed to be vigilant to those who abuse the system.”

Cllr Richard Thomson said: “There has been an increase in town centre activity, towns that don’t have free parking could learn from Ellon as it has been a benefit.

“I would fight tooth and nail to keep the free period and it would be hard to go back from that.

“I would not back extended charges and I think we’ve got a good balance of car parks that are charged.

“The goal is to balance the books and the obvious route to look at is criminalisation to help improve revenue collection.”

Cllr Jim Gifford said: “The free period has worked really well, 30 minutes is good for shopping.

“I first thought we should standardise across Aberdeenshire but it should be up to each area to decide.”

After suggesting every area have 30 minutes free, Cllr Gifford added: “Parking has to break even but we need a profit to invest in better technology and that includes installing more electric car charging points.”

The councillors’ feedback will be given to Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee with any changes expected to be made in time for the 2019/20 financial year.