Parking fees - a reprieve until 2012

Traders are set to receive a welcome Christmas boost after Harrogate Council announced it was to rethink proposed new parking charges.

The council was set to increase off-street car parking charges but traders voiced concerns about its impact on shoppers, particularly at Christmas.

The changes were due to be implemented next month after a 21-day consultation on the proposals ends next Friday, September 2. They would generate £193,450 in 2011/12.

But in a new development on Wednesday, Coun Richard Cooper, cabinet member for planning, transport and economic development, said he had asked officers to look at delaying the increase until the new year.

He said: “Having thought about it, because of the economic climate we are in, I’ve asked officers to bring forward new reports to me in September on the situation of parking charges.

“I don’t want to divert anyone’s attention in business from making the most of the Christmas period.”

He added: “The council has to balance its books so we will have to increase parking charges at some point but I will do all I can to support businesses by delaying until after the Christmas period.”

Coun Cooper said, even if prices did increase, they would leave car parking fees in the Harrogate district competitively priced.

“If you compare Harrogate district with Scarborough or York, we are still good value for money,” he added.

The news has been welcomed by business owners and retailers in Harrogate town centre, who were hoping to stem the increase in car parking charges after North Yorkshire County Council’s executive passed plans on July 26 to increase on-street parking.

Members of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce and the Town Centre Development Group (TCDG) had expressed concern that the nearly half-a-million pounds a year generated by the increases by both North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council would leave shoppers with less to spend or would deter them from shopping in the town centre altogether.

Speaking on Wednesday, Brian Dunsby, the chamber’s chief executive, welcomed the news of the delay to charges, adding: “It’s good news that the cabinet member recognises the difficulties facing traders.”

l For more on the likely delay to an increase in off-street car parking charges, see the Business Monthly supplement inside.