Free parking ‘seems impossible’ - EDDC


- Credit: Archant

A PROPOSAL to scrap parking charges across East Devon looks to be an ‘impossible’ prospect – but district bosses have vowed to discuss the matter further with business leaders.

The Herald revealed last week how the Association of East Devon Chambers of Commerce has tentatively asked the authority to scrap its biggest earner and cover the cost with a ‘modest’ council tax rise.

An East Devon District Council (EDDC) spokesman told the Herald this week that ‘matters of mutual interest’ had been discussed at a meeting on November 5. Talks heard about the outcome of EDDC’s summer parking offer pilots, which are set to continue and be extended into other towns, and a number of ideas for boosting council revenue without increasing charges and for improving car parks were discussed.

“The possibility of scrapping car park fees and recovering the lost income through raising council tax was proposed by the chamber representatives,” said an EDDC spokesman.

“While the council agreed to form a working party to look at a range of ideas, there are a number of clear obstacles to blanket free parking, not least of which is the Government cap on council tax increases.

“Revenue from car parking fees is a legitimate and necessary way for local authorities to earn income, especially as government grants and investment income are falling and costs are rising.

“EDDC has recently carried out a wide-ranging review to ensure that our car parks continue to support our town centre economies whilst taking into account the impact of any changes in the charging structure on the council’s finances.

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“A major change such as that proposed by the chambers would initially seem impossible to deliver. Whilst there are significant obstacles, the council is willing to discuss the proposal in more detail.

“Finally, careful study of the impact that parking fees has on shopping habits shows that whilst raising fees may deter some shoppers, reducing fees does not guarantee a surge in high street shopping activity, especially now that so many people shop online.”