Peterhead retailers and shoppers alike are a step closer to a welcome boost later this year.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee has agreed to introduce free parking periods in the town in a move to boost trade.
It is proposed that the Aberdeenshire Council (Off-Street Parking) Orders will be implemented by June this year.
Members of the public and key stakeholders will be asked for their views on thechanges, which have been developed over the last eight months taking communities’ views into account.
In Peterhead, pay-and-display car parks will have an initial free one-hour period and all parking will be free of charge after 3pm.
The introduction of free periods for parking was one of the key commitments to help town centres in the Aberdeenshire SNP manifesto at the last local elections.
Despite being the largest party in Aberdeenshire, the council’s administration was formed by Liberal Democrats and Conservatives backed by Independents.
Peterhead SNP councillors hailed the decision, with Councillor Anne Allan saying: “The SNP Government has been working hard to boost the local economy by reducing and removing business rates for small businesses, and freezing the council tax to help put more money into the pockets of ordinary working families.
“The council needs to use what powers it has at its disposal to assist small businesses and make our town centres attractive for shoppers. Allowing a period of free parking is an important part of that. By doing so, I hope that shoppers will be encouraged to use town centre traders.
“This is a very welcome decision today, which was backed unanimously by councillors across party lines on the committee. It is just a pity that the previous Lib Dem-Tory administration didn’t take the opportunity offered by the SNP Group in 2011 to freeze parking charges instead of choosing to increase them at that time.”
Infrastructure Services Committee member, Peterhead South & Cruden councillor Stephen Smith added: “I’m very pleased that this key pledge made by SNP councillors standing for election in 2012 has been fulfilled. We campaigned strongly on this issue and we have worked across party lines with other councillors to support this and make it happen.
“This measure in itself will not make things better overnight, but it is a start and it removes one of the major disincentives for people who perhaps have only one or two items they need to get but don’t want to fork out to pay for parking when they are only going to need a parking space for maybe 10 minutes. If it encourages people back into the town centre then that is a good thing.
“I also asked and received a commitment from the council today that we have the flexibility to remove parking charges completely if there are special events organised by local traders aimed at drawing people into the town centre, for example at Christmas time.”
It is proposed that the Aberdeenshire Council (Off-Street Parking) Orders will be implemented by June 2014. In Peterhead, pay-and-display car parks will have an initial free one hour period and all parking will be free of charge after 3.00pm.
Discussing the issue at last week’s meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), chairman Peter Argyle said: “There have been some very clear views from different communities about the role that free parking can play in making our town centres more attractive, and the council has listened to those views in forming these proposals.
“I’m sure it will be of huge benefit to town centres – one of the issues frequently raised is difficulty parking in town centres as opposed to out-of-town supermarkets.
“It will ensure shoppers can pop into town and there’s still a turnover of spaces.”