Price hikes, scrapping free spaces and extending pay-and-display hours were considered when a future vision for parking in East Devon was discussed by council chiefs.
Plans to create a near decade-long parking strategy for East Devon could be set for a bumpy ride, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.
The initial outline of a district-wide parking strategy for 2024-2031 was last week put to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) overview committee, but a host of concerns were raised in the debate.
The strategy aims to streamline decision-making about parking, but councillors highlighted various issues, including the potential use of automatic number plate recognition cameras in car parks, the possible impact of any changes to the time that parking charges end, and whether local residents could receive subsidies for parking.
Councillor Brian Bailey (Con, Exmouth Littleham) said: “Parking does not have a one-size fits all solution.”
He outlined how a permit system recently implemented in his area didn’t have enough spaces compared to the number of permits issued, forcing some of residents to park in a town centre car park at Imperial Road.
“If, as someone suggested, parking charges were enacted 24/7, that would be a horrendous expense for people in that area through no fault of their own,” he said.
Committee chair Anne Hall, (Lib Dem, Exmouth Littleham) agreed that if overnight charging were implemented, it would have to be considered carefully in specific areas.
Councillor Yehudi Levine (Lib Dem, Dunkeswell and Otterhead) suggested residents living in rural areas who travel to urban centres by car because of a lack of public transport, could be given exemptions or allowances if car parking charges become more punitive.
“If we make life difficult for the rural population, it will discourage them from coming into town centres,” he said.
“It could kill the town centre in somewhere like Honiton, as people would go to Tesco or Aldi, where there is free parking, but then not go to the town centre as there is no way to get to there by foot in Honiton’s case.”
Susan Westerman (Lib Dem, Trinity) welcomed the strategy but urged the council to be “perceived to be offering value for money.”
“I would like to see different charges or subsidies for locals compared to tourists, especially because if charges are too high, it drives people onto residential streets,” she said.
Cllr Hall acknowledged this issue, but said different parking permits that provide discounts are available for car park users.
However, she noted a need to improved advertising about these permits to ensure more people know about them.
Other factors raised included the potential charging of vans and motorhomes for overnight parking, possibly using coach parking spaces for cars outside the tourist season, and debating whether parking charges should end later than currently.
Councillor Henry Riddell (Con, Budleigh & Raleigh) raised fears that businesses could be impacted if car park charges go later into the night.
“I will go to Exmouth for a meal out in the evening as I know I don’t have to pay for parking after 6pm,” he said.
“Lots of businesses would be damaged if you took free parking away after 6pm.
“Exeter is charging until 10pm now, but it just pushes parking into residential streets.”
Cllr Hall reaffirmed that this debate was “a starting point”, and that councillors could discuss any concerns with the relevant council officers, who would then create a draft policy for consultation.
The district has 5,000 car park spaces across 53 car parks, including 40 electric vehicle charging points and 147 bays for people with disabilities.