FINAL preparations are being made for a big shake-up of council parking charges in Sheffield.
Prices at many city centre off-street car parks will be reduced to encourage more visitors, but many other fees are going up as part of a strategy that the council estimates will generate an extra £781,000 a year.
Two big changes will see the introduction of a flat £1 charge for parking on Sundays and drivers having to pay to park on-street until 8.30pm instead of 6.30pm.
The new fees were due to be introduced on April 1, but have been delayed for a few weeks because of what the authority says are technical issues. No firm date has been set for when they will take effect.
The council says the new structure will be simpler and is designed to encourage visitors to the city centre, at the same time competing with private car park operators.
But any higher car parking prices are bound to be sensitive at a time when many traders are struggling.
Kane Yeardley, co-owner of the Forum cafe bar and Old House bar and restaurant in Devonshire Street, said: “Parking should be free on Sundays and charges should stop at 5pm so people can come into the city centre to go shopping or have something to eat.”
“This is a short-term attitude which will be another nail in the coffin of the city centre and will only drive more people to Meadowhall.”
Liberal Democrat opposition spokesperson for local businesses, Coun Ian Auckland, said: “This is simply the wrong decision at a time when high streets are feeling the pinch and independent traders searching for new ways to boost their income.
“Rather than supporting independent traders, Labour councillors, who claim to be business-friendly are giving local businesses a kick in the teeth. Right now, we do not even know how much installing these new parking charges will cost, so it may not actually save the council any money.”
Under the new structure, longer stays will be allowed in all council parking spaces. Prices at many city centre off-street car parks are coming down to encourage more use.
On-street parking spaces around the edge of the city centre will cost 50p per half hour. For more central spaces, the charge will be £1 per half hour. It currently costs 65p to park for half an hour in the middle of the city centre.
The all-day Sunday rate of £1 is described as “great value compared to private operators’ charges”.
Central area on-street parking controls are to be extended up to 8.30pm to match off-street car parks, but the maximum charge after 4.30pm will be £2 (£1 after 8pm).
Cabinet member Coun Leigh Bramall said the aim was to offer “a more flexible, consistent and straightforward deal, with some reductions.
“We are in a position where ongoing reductions to our budget from central government mean we have to try to increase parking income. The way we have gone about it is designed to encourage visits to the city centre, given that our local economy is struggling.
“We need to compete with the private sector providers out there, so we aim to win back market share and increase occupancy of our parking spaces, some of which are significantly under-used at present. If we can increase use of our parking capacity by offering a better spread of charges, the driver gets more choice, and some better prices where that matters.”
Consultations are being held over a pilot scheme in Broomhill that would see shoppers who pay for on-street parking being able to receive discounts from local businesses.
The cost of parking permits in the suburbs is going up. A first residential permit will cost £36 and a second permit £72. First business permits will cost £72 and the second £144. The hourly cost of parking in these zones goes up from 40p to 50p an hour.