Decision to Increase Parking Charges and End Free Christmas Parking in Port Talbot Deferred Following Scrutiny, Local Businesses Oppose Changes
A decision on whether or not to increase parking charges and potentially end free Christmas parking in Neath Port Talbot has been deferred this week, following a meeting held by cabinet members on July 28.
The meeting followed what was described as “robust scrutiny” over potential changes to parking fees across the county borough which could be introduced in order to raise additional funds towards the council’s budget.
The changes could include increased charges to parking in council-run car parks, as well as a rise in street parking permits – though a number of councillors and local business partnerships felt the move could have adverse effects on local town centres.
Under the proposals, permits which currently cost £20 per year could be increased to £25 to remain cost neutral or even to £30 to “future proof admin costs and contribute to the council’s budget pressures.”
There were also several options discussed for the future of off-street parking in council-run car parks, including increasing all parking charges by as much as 15%, increasing the cost of seasonal permits, or bringing additional charges to parking along the Aberavon sea-front.
Other options also looked at potential amendments to the dates of free Christmas parking in town centres, or bringing car parking charges in Pontardawe back in line with Neath and Port Talbot town centres.
However, after what were described as “robust” discussions at the Environment, Regeneration & Streetscene Services scrutiny meeting, where a number of amendments to the report were suggested such as taking the proposals to public consultation, members in attendance decided to defer any decisions in order to first gather more information.
Councillor Saif Rahaman is the Labour Party ward member for Port Talbot and said he strongly opposed these changes and believes the council should look at other ways to increase income.
He said: ” I am disappointed with the council’s decision to target the parking service to raise more income in this year’s budget. This decision has resulted in a report to increase parking charges in our town centres to raise some of this income.
“The council should be looking instead at innovative ways to increase income elsewhere rather than raising parking charges. The recommendations in the report fall short of supporting the local business community and town centre residents.
“The recommendations do not promote an increase in footfall or economic activity within Neath Port Talbot town centres. This review should have prioritised the supporting of local businesses – not the protection of council revenue. I strongly oppose this measure the council have put forward for Port Talbot town centre and the wider authority.”
Viva Port Talbot, the Business Improvement District for Port Talbot also said they had concerns over the proposals if they were to go ahead in the coming months.
They said: “Viva Port Talbot urges Neath Port Talbot Council to reconsider its proposed changes to town centre parking tariffs. As it stands, the current proposal would see a 10% increase in town centre parking charges and the scrapping of free parking in the run up to Christmas.
“We strongly oppose these changes due to the adverse effect these would have on our town centre. We are extremely concerned that the full impact of this proposal on town centre businesses has not been considered.
“We believe that affordable and accessible parking is crucial for the continued growth and prosperity of our town centre. The proposed 10% increase in parking charges places an undue burden on local residents, visitors, and small business owners who rely on shoppers being able to access affordable parking options.
“The decision to remove the annual free parking in the run up to Christmas raises concerns about the impact on the festive spirit and holiday shopping experiences in our town. The Christmas season is crucial to many retailers, and the availability of free parking has been a long-standing tradition that benefits both shoppers and businesses.
“We urge Neath Port Talbot Council to reconsider this proposal, and instead explore alternative solutions that promote the use of the available car parking facilities and encourage shoppers into our town centre.”
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