PARKING charges in the Harrogate district are set to rise by up to 25 per cent, in a move that will generate more than £280,000 for the county council.
But business leaders fear the increase in on-street fees could hit local retailers hard at a critical time.
In a report to the county council’s Harrogate area committee, North Yorkshire outlined plans to increase short stay parking charges by 25 per cent, inner zone by 16.6 per cent and outer zone by 20 per cent, from September 1.
Brian Dunsby, chief executive of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “The chamber totally rejects this report.
“Car parking charges are simply a revenue-raising scheme, and discourage visitors. You’re taking £282,000 out of shoppers’ pockets when they come to Harrogate.”
Coun Andrew Williams said: “A 17 per cent increase is described as ‘relatively modest’. It is not relatively modest, it is frankly a kick in the teeth for local business people.”
He told last Thursday’s meeting that shoppers would go to out-of-town centres with free parking and traders’ income levels would “probably flatline”.
Coun Eric Clark, from Grewelthorpe Parish Council, said the report was “outrageous”. “It appears that this report was contrived solely to raise income for North Yorkshire County Council,” he said.
“I don’t think the public will be fooled, they will think it’s an income-generation ploy in addition to the council tax they already pay.”
Coun Andrew Goss said it was an imposition on people with lower incomes.
Motorists currently pay 40p for 20 minutes of short-stay on-street parking, 60p for 30 minutes in the inner zone and 50p for 30 minutes in the outer zone.
All those charges are set to rise by 10p, meaning three hours’ parking in the inner or outer zone would cost an extra 60p.
North Yorkshire hopes to make £282,000 from the increases, with £185,000 of that from the inner zone, including James Street, Parliament Street and Princes Square. It will cost £5,000 to re-programme the pay and display machines.
The changes were passed by seven votes to six at area committee and will now go to the council’s executive for a final decision.
Coun Don Mackenzie voted in favour of the proposals, saying: “Nobody wants to see increases, but in this particular case, I think they are justified. It’s very disingenuous to say this is an increase of 17 per cent, because you are putting coins in a machine, so you have to at least talk about multiples of five pennies.”
He said the extra money generated would be used within the Harrogate district and on-street income currently went towards community transport.
Coun Bernard Bateman said concessionary bus travel had to be funded somehow.
The executive member for highways, Coun Gareth Dadd, said: “I find it incredible that the whole Harrogate economy is going to disappear with an increase of two bob.”
On-street charges are higher in Scarborough, York, Leeds, Oxford, Newcastle, Eastbourne and Doncaster, similar in Rotherham, Leamington Spa, Lancaster, Preston and Barnstaple, and lower in Warwick, Wakefield and Halifax.
At Thursday’s meeting, Mr Dunsby proposed a trial period of limited free parking, perhaps from 4pm onwards, “to attract more shoppers and hopefully stimulate trade”.
Coun John Watson said he couldn’t take the idea seriously and Coun Margaret-Ann de Courcey-Bayley said the days of free parking were “gone forever”, while Coun Mackenzie said the set-up costs would be very high.
Off-street parking is managed by Harrogate Council, which is conducting a review of charges.