Change of philosophy needed for parking strategy

Councils all over the country over complicate parking tariffs and car parking strategy. Our own Torbay Council is no exception, with tariffs being constantly reviewed, strategy being amended, battered and sticker infested confusing signage, all leading to bemused visitors, unhappy residents, despondent traders and ever reducing footfall on our high streets. Unfortunately, there seems to be a theme and philosophy that is endemic within the DNA of many councils which is a policy of:

“maximize the revenue spend from the individual visit to an individual car park in an individual location”

Understandably, many in the council would say that this policy works with Brixham’s dilapidated Central Car Park targeted to achieve a mouthwatering £400,000 revenue during 2016 / 2017, the highest in the bay from the smallest town in the bay and sadly without any return investment.

However, Torbay Council is currently carrying out a thorough and detailed review of policy, tariffs and strategy which Brixham Chamber of Commerce wholeheartedly welcomes and to which it has already contributed. The chamber is looking to work in partnership with council until the end of the review period, such is its importance to the future of Brixham, the bay and the traders. Critically though, the focus of the chamber’s input is a change in attitude and philosophy towards embracing one that has been adapted in neighboring East Devon over the last 6 or 7 years:

“maximize revenue by clear, fair, consistent tariffs that encourage multiple return visits, supporting local trade”

A good example of this would be at the Breakwater Car park. During “out of season”, would it be better for local trade and the council to have two cars parked at £2.00 each visiting the cafe for a coffee or ten cars at 50p, with those ten cars more likely to make multiple return visits? Yes it’s a theory, but a compelling one .

Currently we have “in season” tariffs, “out of season” tariffs, we have “central” car park tariffs and “beachside” tariffs, “short stay” tariffs, “long stay” tariffs…………..confusion reigns, discontent reigns and opportunities are missed. In Brixham for example we have 70p in the Central Car Park for first ½ hour, but £1.30 minimum charge at the Breakwater car park. In the Central Car Park “out of season” the tariff drops to 50p for first 1/2hr yet the minimum charge at the Breakwater goes UP to £2.00!  Then, moving over to Torquay, if you park near Abbey Sands on Torbay Rd, you can pop into Costa for ½ an hour and pay 20p for parking (out of season) compared with the aforementioned £2.00 at the Breakwater car park and yes, although its understood that the Breakwater is a “car park” and Torbay Rd offers “on street” parking, to the customer it boils down to how much it costs to park their car. For the two nearby coffee shops that both pay their business rates, one seems to enjoy an unfair advantage.

Ultimately no one wins at the moment. The council is pilloried,  residents and visitors are unhappy and traders are suffering. The future for our members is bleak, the very members that need to survive and prosper to ensure good income flow into the council post 2020 when the council retain all business rates, a sobering thought when the main investors into Brixhams’ town centre in the last three years has been charity shops, who pay 20% rateable value. Importantly though, these comments need to be seen as positive feedback and observations not criticisms due to the opportunity currently in hand with the review process. Can’t we aim to find a way where everyone wins a little?

The stated opportunity for change is massive and the philosophy is clearly employed in neighbouring East Devon Council’s car parks. As was communicated in one of the consultation meetings, “why spend hours, days, months of valuable time and energy trying to invent something, when a successful working model can be “stolen” (in a nice way) from a neighbouring council”. In East Devon, they have clarity, consistency, fairness, longevity and excellent revenue streams and their research confirms this.

Across ALL car parks in East Devon, in ALL towns including Exmouth, Seaton, Budleigh Salterton, Beer, Sidmouth the “entrance” tariff is 50p for the first half hour in winter, in summer, in autumn, in the sunshine, in the rain and in the fog. It’s clear, consistent and fair, to residents, visitors and traders. They maximize return visits, which maximizes footfall, which maximizes trade on the High Street to help support existing traders and encourage inward investment.

“We do all we can to help our traders and the Chambers of Commerce, particularly at this time of year. For some of our businesses the Christmas season is when they make enough money to keep them afloat through the quieter months of January and February so this initiative will be a welcome boost for them” Councillor Ian Chubb (East Devon Council) on the transferable £2.00 all day tariff.

Brixham Chamber of Commerce will continue to lobby and work in partnership with council for the duration of this critical process, targeting this most challenging of objectives: “a change in philosophy”

Further reading:
East Devon Council encourage shoppers and visitors with reduced parking charges
Consumers can shop ’till they drop with all-day parking offer

 

Photos: Comparison of signage between Torbay and East Devon. One clean, clear and welcoming, the other not! One has a life span of 6 to 7 years, one changes two to three times EACH year.