A special ‘promotional’ rate could be introduced at a pair of Ottery St Mary car parks to boost the town’s businesses.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) is proposing a £2 all-day tariff at facilities in Canaan Way and Brook Street.
The authority’s cabinet will consider the move when it meets on October 2.
If given the green light, it could come into effect straight away – a month earlier than the seasonal deal is rolled out across the rest of the district.
EDDC has come up with the idea after Ottery Town Council bemoaned an increase in charges at the Canaan Way car park. Costs for motorists were doubled in April.
In a report to cabinet members, EDDC’s service lead says:“Representations from Ottery St Mary Town Council have suggested that the impact of this year’s tariff increase in Canaan Way car park is already impacting negatively on the footfall in the town’s retail businesses.
“Our car park transaction data for June and July does suggest a reduction in activity, although the situation is significantly more complex with other towns where tariffs had not changed seeing similar reductions.
“However, in the interests of enabling the town’s retailers to relaunch their autumn offer, I am proposing that we introduce our usual winter price offer (all-day parking for just £2) here with immediate effect rather than waiting for 1 November.
“It is our experience that this offer does not impact negatively on our own revenue with customers seeing £2 all day as great value.
“The additional revenue from more £2 tickets being purchased outweighs any loss of revenue from higher value sales.”
An EDDC meeting in July heard concerns increased parking charges were having a detrimental impact on independent businesses in Ottery.
Fees at Canaan Way used to be 50p per hour with a maximum charge of £1.50 for three hours. The revised tariffs saw that rise to £1 for an hour and £3 for three hours.
Councillor Geoff Pratt said at the time: “Ottery St Mary is a small market town with little tourism. The increase in charges have already seen a drop in footfall and income for independent shops, whose workers are have to pay more.
“Will the officers agree to a meeting with me and Cllr Vicky Johns to consider revoking the increase in charges for Ottery St Mary?”
Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, said it would be unfair to just reconsider one town.
He added: “When we look at and review the budget, we will be looking at the charges in all of the car parks. The total income from car parks last year was £2.7m – and that £2.7m is the same amount of money and savings that we will have to find for next year and if we don’t we will have to raise council tax.
“I understand the call, but for Ottery St Mary to be considered in isolation would be grossly unfair for the other settlements that are affected by this.”
The new charges, which were ratified last autumn, saw tariffs at Underhill car park in Lympstone, Canaan Way in Ottery St Mary, Coombe Lane in Axminster, and Dolphin Street in Colyton, which had cheaper parking rates, brought in line with the rest of the EDDC-run car parks.