There is a lot of concern about the steep increase in parking charges in Penzance over the summer (1 Apr - Oct). Below are some facts, background information and my own commenbts on the issue.
- Steep increase in summer rates (to £1.50/hr) for Penzance and 4 other towns.
- Free parking from 4 pm to 9 am in Penzance CC car parks (many other towns already had this or similar).
- 'Just Park' smart phone app will allow cheap parking in long stay car parks (96 pence/day in Harbour Car Park) but credits have to be bought in blocks (minimum 47 pounds). Credits don’t time expire.
- Just Park will eventually cover short stay car parks ( - timescale unknown).
Cornwall Council took a policy a decision to raise an extra £770,000 pounds from just 5 towns (Pz, St Ives, Newquay, Truro and Falmouth). All the other towns I understand have had a zero increase although most were already substantially less expensive than Penzance and already had free evening parking.
Penzance fought for free evening parking/night time parking - initially 5 pm to 9 a.m. but later 4 p.m to 9 p.m. The original aim was to relieve parking pressure on residents in the Town Centre and Battlefields in the evening given that car parks are virtually empty at night. A secondary rationale was to grow the late afternoon and evening economy. Most towns in Cornwall already had free evening parking. Penzance inherited charging in the evening from Penwith DC days.
Cornwall Council’s season ticket schemes offer good value but requires a major outlay, are inflexible and are poorly promoted. CC is introducing 'Just Park' (smart phone app) which will allow parking at season ticket rates but with an outlay of £47 to purchase ‘credits’. The parking credits do not expire at the end of the year. Just Park will allow parking for 96 pence/day in the Harbour Car Park. The rate is lower still for St Erbyns. Just Park will suit smart phone users who park regularly in long stay car parks. Just Park will eventually cater for short stay car parks.
Cornwall Council’s reliance on parking profits to 'balance the books' comes at the cost of damage to the retail sector in economically weaker towns like Penzance. The new rates will have a negative impact on the retail sector in Penzance.
The lesson for the future is to ensure that the ground rules for any future review of parking charges are properly set. If all CC car parks in Cornwall had had rates increased by inflation (3% ish) then ~£480,000 pounds of the required £770,000 revenue increase would have been raised with minimal pain. Instead 5 towns have been ‘hammered’ to raise the entire £770,000. The ‘public consultation’ over proposed charges came long after the policy decision to target increases at 5 towns .
Penzance got a better outcome (or less bad outcome) than was originally on the cards because of the free evening parking 4 – 9 but that does not mean harm will be avoided. The longstanding injustice regarding lack of free evening parking has been corrected. The evening economy/hospitality sector will benefit and residents in the Town Centre will have more parking options.
For those that think CC has other options and is ‘crying wolf ‘over extreme budgetry pressure then consider Northamptonshire Country Council – effectively insolvent and under direct control of DCLG. Northamptonshire is unlikely to be the last UK primary council to go bust given relentless budgetry pressure and expected future interest rate rises.