Aberdeenshire councillors have been issued with a stark warning over an end to free parking in Peterhead town centre.
Members of the full council will decide early next year whether or not to bring to an end the one-hour free parking in council-owned car parks across the Shire.
But John Pascoe of Rediscover Peterhead, who are bidding to regenerate the Blue Toon shopping area, warned that if the council progresses with the proposal it would have 220 Peterhead town centre businesses actively opposing it.
Mr Pascoe told the Buchanie: “If we’re serious about taking a town-centre first approach in this then the council needs to stick with the status quo and retain free parking.
“The damage which could be done to both our town centre businesses and those in other towns far outweighs any perceived benefit to the council by replacing free parking with a 50p charge.
“Our existing parking system is a joy to use – it benefits customers and it benefits our shops. The potential loss of free parking coupled with the likes of the newly-arrived Aldi store with its free car-park could see Peterhead shoppers simply boycotting the town centre.
“Quite simply this is a retrograde step which Rediscover Peterhead will actively oppose,” he added.
Councillors had been due to make a decision on the withdrawal of free parking at a meeting on Thursday.
But in a last-gasp move described by committee chair Councillor Peter Argyle as “something of a waste of time”, a group of five councillors exercised their right to have the matter discussed at full council.
Facing a projected £211,000 car-park budget deficit for the current financial year, council officers are proposing to scrap free parking periods and replace them with a 50p charge for up to one hour across the region.
Councillors were told that prior to the introduction of the free tariffs there were around 800,000 transactions annually in its car parks.
But while that has risen to 1.3 million in 2017/18, some 80 per cent were free.
East Garioch councillor Glen Reid proposed retaining a Shire-wide 30-minute free period to run alongside alternative tariffs which he claimed would still bring in a neutral budget.
He claimed that this free period, coupled with a slightly different tariff rate, would generate just over £203,000 if there was no behavioural change.
However, Councillor Peter Argyle described those figures as “erroneous” claiming they did not take into account VAT and that the council would still face a deficit.
The matter will now be referred to full council.