Councillors at the Buchan Area Committee have backed plans to keep free parking available in Peterhead town centre car parks.
A consultation process is currently ongoing to seek views on fees and charges in Pay and Display car parks, which have not changed for three years.
The current tariff structure was introduced to encourage economic activity in town centres, and while the number of visits has increased, the council now loses a significant sum of money.
Officers have been seeking views on the possibility of: removing free parking periods, increasing charges, changing the times fees are payable and the car parks where charges apply.
Currently car parks operate at a loss of around £140,000 a year, and the council wants to get closer to a position where they cover their own costs, as they have in the past.
Members of the public recently gave their opinions and now Aberdeenshire’s six area committees are being asked their views on a range of possible options.
Parking in the Peterhead area was discussed at the Buchan Area Committee on Tuesday, May 8.
Councillor Alan Fakley said: “The regeneration of the town centre is a priority and free parking is a vital componant of that.
“Footfall in the town has increased since the free hour was introduced and I want to see that remain.”
Councillor Stephen Smith agreed with Councillor Fakley and added: “While standardisation across Aberdeenshire may save people from any confusion, the signs are clear.
“If we want an hour and others don’t we should be able to do that.
“Peterhead is the only town that has free parking after 3pm and that has been successful in getting people to stop and use the town centre.”
Cllr Norman Smith questioned if the current free period after 3pm could be moved to 4pm.
Meanwhile Cllr Jim Ingram proposed the free time be cut to 30 minutes to keep Peterhead in line with other towns.
He explained: “Car parking has to be self-sustainable, but I am in favour of free time and 30 minutes would be quite sufficient.
“We are one council so we should have one set of rules, one set of regulations.”
However Cllr Stephen Calder disagreed as he said: “Every location is different but we still need free periods and keeping an hour is essential.”
Councillors also discussed various ideas for York Street including the use of business permits and potentially turning it into a pay and display car park.
On this issue Cllr Calder said: “Cars are already parking on the surrounding streets and residents are complaining that they can’t get parked outside their homes. The Police move to Buchan House may only exacerbate the problem so we need to think about that.”
Cllr Anne Allan said: “York Street isn’t part of the town centre parking remit but I believe it is used by people who park there all day for work. Could we introduce a business permit here?
“Also, town centres are changing, people aren’t spending as much time in shops but they are going to the bank or getting their hair cut and these services take time.
“We need to keep the hour in place but I’m not fussed if the free parking is in place after 3pm or 4pm.”
The councillors’ feedback will be given to Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee with any changes expected to be made in time for the 2019/20 financial year