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Free car parking 'not financially sustainable' says Council Leader

Thursday, 11 June 2020 07:54

‘Our car parks have to be self-financing. It is not for Douglas ratepayers to subsidise car parking for island-wide users’, the Leader of Douglas Borough Council Councillor David Christian MBE JP has said.


Councillor Christian was speaking after parking charges at Shaw’s Brow, the Bottleneck, Drumgold Street and Chester street car parks were reintroduced on Monday June 8.


The charges were suspended temporarily at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Councillor Christian continued: ‘The Department of Infrastructure reintroduced charges in the car parks they operate three weeks earlier, on May 14, while the Council was still offering free parking.

‘The Council pays the Department of Infrastructure £1.3 million a year to rent Drumgold Street and Chester Street car parks. Without revenue from parking fees, we simply could not meet that sum. Had the Department agreed to the Council’s request for a rebate on or suspension of the operator’s licence we would have been in a position to continue offering free parking until later this year to support local retailers. As the situation stands, it’s not financially sustainable for the Council to do this.


‘The decision to reintroduce parking fees was also taken because with the easing of lockdown restrictions, more and more people are returning to work and choosing to commute by car rather than use public transport, given the current social distancing protocols. This has seen our tariff-free car parks occupied mostly by commuters’ vehicles, leaving only limited spaces available for shoppers to use. Compounding the situation, parking is no longer available on the former Lord Street bus station site or on the promenade walkway, factors outside of the Council’s control.


‘Suspending parking charges was only ever going to be an exceptional short-term measure in response to exceptional times. The Island is gradually returning to some kind of normality - and in this the Council largely applauds the government’s actions. We recognise that reintroducing the charges would not be met with universal approval. There is, though, a much wider issue to consider. With the local economy extremely fragile and trading activity only very slowly re-emerging, it’s vital that shoppers are not deterred from coming into the town centre and helping to revitalise the retail sector through a lack of adequate parking.


‘The Council understands the concerns of businesses and members of the public alike and shares the same burden of having financial obligations that must be met despite the loss of income being experienced during this difficult time. The Council will continue to support and encourage local businesses wherever and however it can but this cannot be done based on an unsustainable financial model, which ultimately could have a negative effect on our ability to deliver vital public services.’


Councillor Christian added that the Council had been aware of a recent incorrect post on social media relating to the matter of parking charges. The misinformation had led to some confusion and concern among the general public and the Council is grateful to the post’s author for correcting the error.