All change at car parks

31 Jan 2024 09:18
Published by: Scott Callan

Opposition: Macclesfield MP David Rutley with Prestbury campaigners against the charges

CHESHIRE East is set to keep its ‘Free after 3pm’ scheme and extend it to other car parks in the borough after the public’s response to its controversial parking shake-up.
However, charges will be introduced in most car parks which are currently free, the cost of parking will rise across the borough and the council has warned even more measures will be needed to meet its savings target.
To cover that £800,000 shortfall, further changes such as cashless parking and charges on evenings and Sundays could be considered, a report to councillors has revealed.
The council, which is under severe financial pressure, is set to increase its standard parking tariffs by the rate of inflation – the first rise since 2018.
And under the proposals, charges will be introduced for the first time in Alsager, Audlem, Bollington, Handforth, Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Poynton, Prestbury and Sandbach. People using the Ryleys Lane car park in Alderley Edge will also have to pay.
The fees are set to be introduced despite local opposition, with concerns raised about the economic impact on town and village centres. Macclesfield MP David Rutley was among those opposing the move.
A public consultation saw 8,384 representations, with just two per cent supporting the plans and 96 per cent against.
The council is looking to extend the ‘Free after 3pm’ initiative to the towns that currently have no parking charges.
It is proposing the Duke Street car park in Macclesfield replaces Whalley Hayes in the initiative as it is closer to the town centre. Broadway Meadow in Wilmslow will also join the scheme.
Free parking will be retained at a number of smaller car parks where the council says it is not value for money to introduce pay and display. And plans reduce the time limits at on-street parking bays have been withdrawn. Cheshire East, which operates 111 public car parks across the borough, says its proposals seek to provide “fair and consistent arrangements” and respond to the significantly increasing costs of operating and maintaining them.
The proposals were being considered at a meeting of the council’s highways and transport committee, being held at Macclesfield Town Hall as The Independent went to press.
Speaking before the meeting Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council and chair of the committee, said: “I would like to thank all those who took the time to respond to our consultation.
“We know that residents and businesses in some areas are very concerned about the impact on their local high street of any changes to parking.
“While parking charges are just one potential factor affecting consumer decisions and habits, we have listened and looked again at our proposals, and have been able to put forward some key changes.
“But this council – like many other local councils across the country – is facing increasing financial pressure. This is as a result of factors including construction inflation, high interest rates and costs incurred in petitioning against HS2 to secure the best possible outcomes for communities across the borough.
“Doing nothing and sticking with the same parking regime is not only something that we cannot afford to do but would mean that we continue with the inherited, unfair legacy where some of our residents pay to park in their local town centre, and others do not.
“All car parks – whether they’re free to use or not – need maintenance, management, and enforcement and the costs relating to these services have significantly increased and continue to rise.
“The costs associated with the ‘free’ car parks alone are around £400,000 per year.
“Not making difficult decisions, such as increasing parking charges, means the pressure on the council’s finances worsens even further. The result would be a reduction in other services that fall under the highways and transport committee, for example roads maintenance or bus subsidies.”
The council says it will continue to monitor the impacts of the changes so that “timely interventions” can be made where necessary.

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