Plans to introduce new parking tariffs in the town centre have been challenged by councillors, with one call for Wrexham Council to be “bolder” in offering more initiatives to entice shoppers.
Last week Wrexham.com reported that proposals had been put forward to change the tariffs in all council-owned car parks in the town centre.
One of the key changes would be the introduction of a 1-3 hour parking tariff which would be available in all council-owned car parks for £1.80. This would be a 20p reduction on the £2 cost at Tŷ Pawb and Waterworld, but 30p more expensive at Crescent Road.
Other proposed changes include a reduction in the all-day charge to £3 between Monday to Friday at Waterworld / Crown Buildings car parks. Currently it costs £4 to park at the site for over three hours. There will also be a reduction from £350 to £300 for a six month parking payment.
Two town centre car parks could also see increases in their charges, with all day parking at Crescent Road to go from £1.50 to £2 to park all day. Those who use a six month parking permit at the car park will also see the cost increase from £168 to £200.
Crescent Road and Tŷ Pawb (formerly the People’s Market) car parks will also see the removal of ‘free after three’ – an initiative which replaced the ‘free after midday’ scheme in 2013.
As a result parking charges will be in place until 6pm at both car parks, along with the introduction of a £1 evening charge from 6pm until midnight. Due to the ‘free after three’ scheme, parking in the evenings had been free for several years.
Tŷ Pawb would also see a parking increase, moving from 50p to £1 to park for an hour. There would also be an increase in the all day charge from £2 to £2.50. Such changes feature as part of the business plan for the new arts and market development.
On Tuesday councillors debated the proposals, which would be introduced from January 2018, subject to the response of a statutory consultation.
However Rhosnesni Councillor Mike Davies stated the Wrexham Council shouldn’t be using the car parks as a “cash cow” and challenged councillors to be bolder in introducing new initiatives to encourage people to park in town.
Cllr Davies said: “I am split over this, I’ve got some things I’m pleased with and some things I’m not happy with. I spoke to Cllr Bithell a while ago saying I thought there was a need for three hour parking in parts of Wrexham, specifically by the Parish Church where people are struggling with two hours. So I’m glad to see that happening.
“I am disappointed we have lost two hours tariff. As it stands at the moment, with these proposed prices virtually anyone could stay up to an hour but you’re paying the same or more. It’s 100% increase in places. If you only want to stay in town two hours, I imagine there’s a lot of people who do that, you will be paying between a 20%-80% increase depending where you’re parking.
“Speaking to people in town, looking at social media, the amount of people complaining about prices of parking in town. A lot of shops are struggling and there’s various activities to boost trade, there’s the various forums going on in town, festivals etc. I don’t think any increase on car parks will be beneficial to the shops, personally.
“I am disappointed with the doing away of the free parking, that’s the worst part of it as far as I am concerned. It can’t possibly benefit anyone, all that’s happening is it will raise revenue.
“I appreciate our car parks raise revenue for the council and they do make a profit. However my feelings are a car park shouldn’t be a business, it’s an essential resource for the town and it should be there for the people of Wrexham to park and for the shops to thrive.
“Any increase at this moment, I don’t this is a good idea because motorists are feeling the pinch and I’d be interested to see how much extra these proposals are anticipated to make, because I’m aware we do make a profit from the car park, but I don’t feel the car park should at the moment be used as a cash cow to subsidise other departments.”
He added: “I think the council could be bolder with certain aspects. I’d like to see increasing free parking. I think it would be great to see a scheme where local tax payers could have free parking for two or three hours a week.”
“I am interested how much money is this going to raise and is that the reason for doing it?”
Cllr Bithell pointed out that Wrexham Council does not make a profit from the car parks, with the revenue generated put into a cash limited budget.
He added: “Some of the feedback we have had from the new Town Centre Forum Chair and the Chair of the Steering Group have welcomed these proposals, because we did discuss these proposals with them last week.
“We have a good track record in Wrexham of introducing some pilot schemes and free parking on designated days and we have done successfully for the last few years.
“Just like to remind people again that December is free in all council operated car parks
“These proposals are not specifically designed to generate income. They’re designed based on the demand and our policy on parking. The policy on parking has been agreed previously by the Executive Board and we have to reach the 85%.
“Some car parks perform better than others. Unfortunately some of our car parks haven’t been operating at or above that desired level, like Waterworld. Hence why we are making some alteration to Crescent Road and Waterworld.
“What we are trying to do is make the car parks competitive. If you have a look at our pricing structure compared to private operators, they are very comparable. We have looked at the data, they’re probably quite cheaper.”
Cllr Bithell added: “You do refer to the department making a profit. We’re not making a profit. All the money we make from car parking goes back within the cash limited budget within the environment department.
“That budget has suffered for a number of years due to some of the initiatives we have carried out with car parking, that’s a fact.”
Concerns were also raised about the impact parking charges have on neighbouring residential areas, with Grosvenor Councillor Marc Jones citing certain roads in Rhosddu which are used by people visiting town.
Cllr Jones said: “What we’re suffering in Rhosddu is effectively people using residential streets as free car parks because people are price sensitive. And because we don’t have those free options or that our car parks are deemed to be too expensive, and I do appreciate £3 isn’t a lot for a lot of people, but people are incredibly sensitive to car parking prices.
“The logical problem is people who live close to town centre, it’s not just a Rhosddu problem, I’m sure it’s common in Smithfield, Offa and in other wards. We’re suffering because we don’t have free parking cheaper parking.
“I think there is a wider perspective we need to look at. Because I represent a lot of town centre traders, I’m very keen to see them helped in all ways possible.”
Cllr Jones also suggested free parking was trialled in the quieter January period rather than December, which is traditionally a busier period due to Christmas shopping.
Cllr Bithell noted that he was aware of the issues of parking in residential areas and that there was a policy in place that had been agreed by the Executive Board.
Questions were also asked about the timeframe consultation period over the new prices, with Cllr Dana Davies asking if seven weeks was enough time for local residents and traders to take part in a statutory consultation.
Previously Wrexham.com have reported with on the confusion of whether or not Wrexham Council have ‘consulted’ with representative bodies such as the Town Centre Forum, which is regularly cited as a consultee in council reports – despite no such formal consultation being presented to members of the forum or being circulated via email.
However Cllr Bithell said the statutory process is different to the Difficult Decision consultation and that following the publication of the traffic regulation order notice in local papers and the council website, a decision will be made by the Head of Environment and Planning.
The recommendation was passed unanimously by members of the Executive Board and a statutory consultation on the proposed parking changes is due in the near future.