Cabinet asked to approve 15-year strategy to invest in borough's car parks

4 July 2017

The Council’s Cabinet has been asked to approve a 15-year plan of investment and improvement in the borough’s parking provision.
In a report which will go before Cabinet next week (Weds, July 12) a number of key focus areas are outlined to ensure that current and future parking provision remains fit for purpose, contributes to residents’ quality of life and supports residents, businesses and the visitor economy. 
These include a wide range of parking issues like supply and demand, car park locations and quality, on and off-street parking, charging and enforcement. 
The main proposals include: 
  • improving the quality of the Council’s car parks and raising the standard of the most used car parks to the best industry standard
  • updating car park technology to provide greater choice and flexibility for customers by providing a range of payment methods; including card, phone and account payment options
  • introducing modest charges at some car parks where charges currently aren’t in place, particularly where there are significant parking pressures, to ensure there is sufficient, good quality, secure car parking available and to be consistent across the borough. This is recommended in Frodsham, Hoole, Northwich, and in Winsford when regeneration work in the town has been completed.
  • the need to address parking pressures by exploring the acquisition of  land for parking and the potential for multi-storey or decked car parks in certain locations, including at some railway stations
  • introducing a range of more flexible offers as alternatives to current concessions like ‘Free after 3’ which is shown to have a limited effect, such as discounts for motorists arriving within certain times, having participating retailers refund or part-pay for parking charges, discounted evening parking, weekend discounts and offers during quiet seasonal periods
  • improving the size, quality and number of disabled spaces across the borough.
Due to the diversity of locations in the borough, the report recommends an overarching, borough-wide strategy and eight location-based strategies for Chester, Ellesmere Port, Northwich, Winsford, Frodsham, Helsby and Neston (including Parkgate) and rural areas.
While recognising there are also some common issues that affect them, Cuddington and Sandiway, Farndon, Tarvin, Tattenhall, Malpas, Tarporley and Kelsall, will also be looked at on an individual basis.
The draft strategy, produced by specialist transport consultants Mott MacDonald does recommend charging Blue Badge holders for parking.
However, the officer report to Cabinet recommends that the Council does not look to implement this as it is recognised that disabled people are much more restricted in their travel options and have little choice where they park. Importantly the Council made a commitment in the Council Plan to compassionately support older people and vulnerable adults to lead fulfilled and independent lives and that charging disabled people to park would be inconsistent with that. 
Statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions show that those living in a family with a disabled member are more likely to be on low income than non-disabled families. Working-age adults with disabilities are less likely to be in employment, and disability is more prevalent amongst pensioners.
The Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Karen Shore, said: “Our population and car ownership rates are steadily rising and land available for car parking is decreasing.
“Over the coming years, the Council needs to find ways to invest in our car parks so we have sufficient clean and safe spaces, in the right places, with clear signage and new technology to make visits easier and more flexible.
“We need to address the issues faced by residents who live in areas where commuters regularly park, introduce the right offers in the right places to encourage visitors, improve disabled provision, and reduce congestion and air pollution.
“Nobody likes paying for things that were previously free, we understand that, but the fairest way to generate the income needed to make this level of investment, and contribute towards the savings the Council must make, is for everyone to contribute rather than the postcode lottery system currently in place. 
“There is an imbalance at the moment, as residents and businesses in some areas are paying for parking and others are not and in many areas where charges are not in place there are significant parking pressures and that is not fair.” A number of the recommendations in the draft Strategy will require investment, in some cases considerable investment, in order to provide sufficient, fit for purpose parking facilities in the borough. The detailed costing of each of the action plans will be evaluated on an individual basis. 
In some cases, where investment costs are likely to be considerable, for example where new land should be purchased to increase future parking provision, the Council may need to enter into partnership agreements. 

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