26th May 2018
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Car parks likely to remain free

Council car parks are likely to remain free to use because “pay & display” machines in Lerwick would probably make a loss.

It means councillors will be asked on Wednesday not to bother introducing charging at car parks in Church Road, the former swimming pool site, Fort Road and Burgh Road.

They cannot charge for the car park in Market Street because its Land Registry Title requires it to be free to the public.

If the environment and transport committee agrees with its officials’ recommendation it will mean yet another of the council’s plans set out in February to help cut spending by £15.4 million this year will have failed.

Ironically, one of the reasons why charging for parking is not thought likely to work is because hundreds of council workers have moved offices – and their cars – to the new HQ at the North Ness, leaving the town centre with more spaces to choose from.

The experience of Orkney Islands Council has not inspired the SIC either. Its eight “pay & display” car parks generate “little if any profit” due to parking attendants’ wages and other costs, according to a report by SIC roads design team leader George Leask.

It is estimated that a system in Lerwick would cost £68,000 to introduce and £72,000 a year to run. Income is difficult to estimate because many drivers would probably seek free alternative parking or not bother visiting the town centre.

The proposal to start charging was put forward in February as a way of raising £50,000 this year and £100,000 a year in the future.

The study into how it might work has concluded that charging would be unpopular and only the old swimming pool and Fort Road car parks would be worthwhile including, providing 156 spaces.

The council did not look at charging for on-street parking, which is the spaces along the side of the road, because the law would require vehicles to be checked by the traffic warden or a policeman and the council thinks they are too hard-pressed to take on extra work.

With no money from parking to help the council meet its huge savings target the £50,000 that was meant to come from charges has instead been found by not spending the whole budget for road signs and markings.

If the environment and transport committee agrees with Mr Leask’s report the question of charges will be shelved for another two years.

However, it is possible that the Church Road car parks will be freed of all-day parkers by becoming part of the short-term parking zone where motorists are required to display a parking timer.

About John Robertson

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