Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed it will not offer motorists one day’s free parking before Christmas in a bid to attract shoppers.
Coun Philip Broadbank (Lib Dem, Starbeck) raised the issue at a Full Council meeting on Wednesday, December 7, stating that it would be beneficial for shoppers and retailers.
However, Coun Rebecca Burnett (Cons, Rossett) cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport refused the request, arguing it would have a negative effect on the town centre.
Speaking at the meeting, she said: “You are assuming that this will help retailers but that would not be the case. You have to understand why we charge for parking.
“It is needed to help with the turnover of vehicles which in turn helps more people shop through the day.
“If we provide free parking then the spaces are taken by people who will park for an entire day. We have seen this happen on a Sunday but this would not have happened if we had parking charges in place.”
Parking charges have been a controversial topic in Harrogate this year after North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) introduced on-street Sunday parking charges in the town centre.
The charges, branded a “stealth tax” by campaigners came into force from November 13, one week after the county council introduced increased on-street parking charges.
NYCC argued that both proposals were to encourage greater turnover of premium parking spaces and incentivise motorists to use Harrogate Borough Council owned car parks.
Despite making £178k more from their car parks than originally budgeted for in the past 18 months, Coun Burnett said the cost to the council was not the reason for refusing the request.
She said: “If we were to provide free parking at Christmas then we would not have more people parking in our car parks. The car parks are over 95 per cent full over Christmas anyway so we would have less people parking in there.
“There would not be the turnover of people that we wanted, some people would stay there and park for the entire day. It would not help the shops and it would cost the council a lot of money.
“It’s a gimmick that you think more of town centre retailers than we do.”