Support for town centre continues with two hours free parking

Support for town centre continues with two hours free parking
08 September 2020

Councillors are proposing ongoing support for Darlington town centre after undertaking a review of parking fees.

Free parking was introduced in March across all council-run car parks and on-street parking in response to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on shops and to support key workers.

As the number of workers and shoppers returning to the town centre increases, a review of parking has been carried out to ensure the system is working for everyone.

A number of key car parks and parking bays in the town, particularly those close to the shopping areas, are being filled by people parking all day, which is preventing shoppers and visitors finding a space for short stays – anecdotal evidence suggests this is off putting for some visitors to Darlington and impacting our recovery efforts.

Cabinet will be asked to consider a proposal for a new offer of two hours free parking in all council-run car parks and on-street parking, which would be in place from October until the end of December, Monday to Saturday. It is also proposed free parking would continue on Sundays.

If agreed by cabinet the proposals will also need to be agreed by full council.

If members vote in favour, the revised two hour free parking offer will operate in all council-owned long and short stay car parks, as well as on-street parking, and would come into effect in October, on a date to be confirmed. The exception will be Park Lane car park, which is mainly used by people making rail journeys.

Councillor Alan Marshall, cabinet member for the economy, said: “Free parking has been a boon to many town centre workers and shoppers alike in the last six months and has been a key element of our package of economic support for Darlington during the pandemic.

“However, as demand for parking spaces starts to bounce back, we’re finding that the consequences of free parking is actually proving to be a deterrent to some shoppers, which is the exact opposite of what we’re looking to achieve.

“No-one is criticising motorists who have used the free parking to its full potential, but the time has come to re-introduce time limits on the free parking available, to ensure it’s available to all.”

Councillor Andy Keir, cabinet member for local services, said: “We want the most convenient spaces easily accessible for shoppers and visitors to the town centre. Having a time limit will ensure these spaces are available and turning over regularly to encourage people to support Darlington and continue to buy local.”

Drivers will need to display a ticket for the free two hours to show what time they arrived and must pay for any time required over the initial two hour period. All display boards in individual car parks will be updated to make clear the charges for different time periods.

The Market Square parking bays currently have a maximum stay of 30 minutes – if the proposals go ahead this would change to two hours free to ensure consistency through the town.

Cabinet will meet remotely on Tuesday, 15 September at 5pm. Full council will meet on Thursday, 24 September at 6pm.