A Banchory business leader has described the impact of new charges in Aberdeenshire’s pay and display car parks as “another nail in the coffin” for traders.
Dick Taylor, chairman of Banchory Business Association (BBA), spoke out after discovering the town’s Bellfield car park virtually empty on a recent Saturday afternoon.
Under the recently-introduced changes to the council’s pay and display car parks, free periods have been scrapped, motorists pay a 50p charge for the first hour, followed by £1 for up to two hours, £3 for up to five hours, and £5 for more than five hours.
Mr Taylor said: “It shows the effect of the charges implemented by Aberdeenshire Council in September.
“On a recent Saturday afternoon, Bellfield car park was virtually empty and that was early on, not at close of business. It’s concerning for all the shops in Banchory and it’s another nail in the coffin.
“I know it’s not a big charge but people naturally will shun away from it. There are plenty of places they can go to where they don’t have to pay.
“There’s no doubt it is having an impact on the town centre.”
Mr Taylor also questioned why Banchory was the only location in Deeside with parking charges.
Councillor Peter Argyle, chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), said: “The new tariff was introduced to end an unsustainable deficit in the car park budget.
“It gives one hour’s parking for just 50p and up to two hours for £1, meaning that parking for anything more than 30 minutes is cheaper than previously. We have not extended pay and display so there are still a huge number of spaces for which we do not charge at all.
“We have also introduced a range of easy payment methods including contactless, which is proving very popular and chip card payments, as well as ticketing via the RingGo mobile app and I would reiterate that the new structure will be reviewed by ISC after a year of operation to see what effect it has had.
“It would be disappointing if people were to avoid our town centres because of an erroneous message that parking is expensive or difficult - it is neither. I would encourage everyone to make full use of our excellent town centres.”
Banchory and Mid Deeside Councillor Ann Ross has argued that Banchory is the only Deeside community with parking charges and has asked for an explanation from council officers.
She said: “Banchory is a town supporting a large rural area, where public transport is non-existent with people having to rely on their cars to get around.
“It is essential therefore that when visiting Banchory, parking is easily accessed and available to attract footfall to the town centre.
“Our High Street has been devastated recently with lots of empty retail units, and I believe that we all have a responsibility to embrace creative solutions to improve the situation and not put impediments in the way.”