Surprise decision to freeze parking charges
PARKING charges in Cornwall Council owned car parks are set to be frozen from April.
The surprise decision was made by the council's Cabinet last week, ignoring recommendations that there should be an increase of 3.2 per cent.
Penzance has long been a focus for frustration over parking charges, with many traders calling for cheaper tariffs to help them attract more customers.
"The more you put up prices, the less people will spend with you," said Peter Wood, manager of Wharfside Shopping Centre. He has first-hand knowledge of making car parks pay after launching pay-when-you-leave ticket machines at venues in Shropshire.
"Wharfside is one of a handful of Cornwall Council car parks that makes money but the car park is probably still half-empty half the time," he added.
He says County Hall should research peak and low times of car park use and change the tariffs to suit, whether that be raising or lowering prices.
"If they knew when it was empty they could use an incentive with a special tariff," he said.
The launch of a ticket-less vehicle registration plate system would also give the parking a boost at Wharfside, he said. The technology sees motorists type in their registration and only pay on their return.
"Wharfside could make three or four times more money than it does currently," said Mr Wood. Other Cornwall Council car parks could then be adapted for longer stay or commuter use.
Parking charges have also remained a sticky subject in Truro over the past three years with Cornwall Council failing to meet its targets for the amount of income expected every year. With a significant budget shortfall, the authority has been forced to allocate money from highways maintenance to plug the gap.
Other suggested ways of raising revenue, muted at the council's meeting last week include making tourist spots such as Newquay and large centres like Truro face higher charges as they have more visitors.
Bert Biscoe, Cabinet member responsible for car parking, said he had tasked officers to work with members of the council's parking advisory panel to find a way of balancing the service.
The Cabinet agreed to go ahead with a review of parking charges. It also agreed that the charges should be frozen for the financial year from April 1, 2013.
The proposed charges will still have to be subject to public consultation before they can be confirmed next year.