The leader of Central Bedfordshire Council has said amendments to proposed higher parking fees for Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable is a "clear example" of the Executive listening to to feedback on the controversial measures.
Councillor Richard Wenham (Conservative, Arlesey Ward) said the council had taken into account the results of a substantial public consultation and to input from its scrutiny committee by making the tweaks, which include:
> A new tariff of 30 minutes for parking set at 50p across all of CBC car parks (except Flitwick).
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> Extending free afternoon parking at Duncombe Drive in Leighton Buzzard and at Ashton Square, Dunstable.
> The minimum charge of £3.50 for using a debit card will be removed.
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These revised recommendations were published at 9am, just 30 minutes before the Executive meeting started yesterday (Wednesday, February 8).
The executive member for community services, councillor Ian Dalgarno (Conservative, Arlesey Ward) said at the meeting: "The report was presented to Sustainable Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee on January 20 and a number of concerns were raised along with a number of recommendations.
"Over 1,000 responses to the consultation were received and the main theme of these were concerned with regarding the impact on our high streets following the pandemic and business recovery.
"Whilst the council understands the general desire not to see increases in tariffs, I hope that the amended proposals I will present today will show that the council is listening and taking a balanced view.
"We are very mindful of the impact on the local economy of Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to support our local high streets as they go through the journey of recovery to pre-pandemic levels of trade and the representations and recommendations I will make this morning I believe will aid in that area," he said.
"I recommended that we implement a new tariff of 30 minutes for parking at 50p across all of our car parks with the exception of Flitwick - with Flitwick being a commuter car park.
"This will support those residents who wish to pick up an item in a pharmacy or go to the bank, etc., and I believe that this will be a huge benefit to many residents and our local businesses," he said.
It was also proposed that free parking on some afternoons would be provided at car parks in Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. Ashton Square, Dunstable will see free parking on Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons (1pm to 6pm), while Duncombe Drive in Leighton Buzzard will have free parking on Tuesdays and Saturdays (1pm to 6pm). Initially this was proposed to be 2pm to 6pm at both locations.
"I believe this proposal will be a great benefit to those residents who wanted to use those markets [in Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard], to shop in our town centres, etc. on those afternoons, " councillor Dalgarno said.
"And it will also support our traders and promote them at a time and a day when it’s becoming quieter."
The minimum charge of £3.50 for using a debit card, which was criticised at Scrutiny, will be removed "as soon as practically possible".
When pressed on the timescale for this change, councillor Dalgarno said: "I have asked officers to expedite this, my expectation is if we are changing the rates on April 1, I would like to have contactless payments in all of our machines by April 1."
The main points of the new harmonised parking price structure are; 30 minutes parking for £0.50, up to one hour for £1.50, up to two hours for £2.00, up to three hours for £2.50 and up to five hours for £4.00.
The cost of parking permits for its Residents Parking Zones will not be increased, as CBC will be undertaking a full review of these to understand how it can make the best use of them. This means they stay at £10 for a first car, £70 for a second car and £90 for a third car.
The Executive voted unanimously in favour of the revised recommendations.