A smart parking system for the centre of Harrogate, which district and county council authorities say will offer an economic boost to the town, has officially launched.
The 18-month trial of AppyParking began today (Monday, January 28), a free app which provides users live updates of where there are available spaces in Harrogate.
It's believed to be the first of its kind in the country which will give users a 'fully integrated on and off street smart city demonstrator' - which means drivers will be able to see where spaces are available in both Harrogate Borough Council managed car parks and North Yorkshire County Council managed streets, with live updates provided through the over 2,000 battery powered parking sensors installed across the town.
At a launch event near the Harrogate War Memorial, CEO and founder of AppyParking said the system will aid drivers to find spaces, and also address the over-payment for parking which reaches into the billions across the country.
Dan Hubert said: "AppyParking wants to make parking forgettable, for you as a consumer when you arrive at a destination, to not have the anxiety that you normally have.
"What we will be providing is real time availability, so when you drive you can find the exact spot and turn up without having to drive around the block. With a single click you can start the payment, and then when you drive off you're then only charged for the time you are there.
"Currently the UK spends £6.8 billion in over-payments, and this helps addresses this problem."
Speaking on the launch of AppyParking he said: "It feels brilliant, there have been a lot of long nights for my team making sure this is working correctly. It's amazing to see it here today, with the discs in place, helping make the town, a smart town."
Common questions which have arisen following the the first reports of AppyParking have included if you can reserve parking spaces, and also how the app is to be used by drivers.
It was recommended that drivers use a cradle, and use the app while stationary. While spaces cannot be reserved currently, Mr Hubert, said the company was looking into 'the possibility of this in the future.'
Using the app, drivers will be able to pay by the minute instead of half hour blocs - Once parked users then register they have taken the space, when they leave they are charged for the time they have been there to the closest minute.
It's believed the system will help draw more people to Harrogate, and offer a boost for retailers says, HBC Cabinet Member for Sustainable Transport, Coun Phil Ireland.
He said: "We feel there will be an economic benefit to this. People have been put off coming to Harrogate, because they think it's difficult to park, or the car parks are going to be full. They will be able to see there are spaces are available and make their way to them.
"It should help the economy, giving a boost for the shops rather than people shopping online, getting people using the cafes and restaurants. In general it's hoped it will provide a real benefit for the town."
The system has been partly funded by both NYCC and HBC, paying £45,000 each, while partners Visa and AppyParking have contributed more than £200,000.
Speaking on what the system could bring to Harrogate, including the chance for the authority to collect data on parking in the town, NYCC, Executive Member for Highways, Coun Don Mackenzie said: "I think apart from the advantages for the two local authorities, to give them data on which to make their plans, its also a particularly good selling point for visitors both business and leisure visitors who come to Harrogate. I do know when people plan their visits to the town, perhaps they've been to before, they worry about where they can park.
"This app gives them a great deal of confidence, that they know the app will take them to a parking space. Also on the app it shows you how long you are allowed to be out for, the costs, and other restrictions, so it's an additional attraction for visitors."