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Agenda item

Review of Charging Periods for Highfield Road Car Parks



To consider the current car park charging periods in the Town Centre area following public representations at the Joint Transportation Board meeting on 11 June 2019 relating to the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) car park and a review of the usage of the Highfield Road (South) car park.




That the Cabinet considers the content of the report and determines whether to continue or amend the charging regimes for Highfield Road (Spring Vale) and Highfield Road (South) car parks.


The Parking Services Supervisor presented a report which reviewed the operation of the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) and Highfield Road (South) pay and display car parks following changes introduced following the review of Fees and Charges applying from 1 April 2018 and the making of the Dartford Borough Council (Off Street Parking Places) Order 2018. The new order had revised the operating hours of off-street car parks in the town centre area from 0800-18.30 to 08.00 to 20.00 hours and subsequently included a new pay and display car park at the former informal car park at Highfield Road (South). The Joint Transportation Board (JTB) on 11 June 2019 received a petition and deputation from local residents and the users of the Gurdwara asking the Council to shorten the hours of operation of the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) car park back to 18.30 hours as they considered that the extended hours had impacted heavily on users to the point that the car park was now severely under-utilised during the evenings. The JTB had asked for a report to be prepared detailing usage levels and revenues generated by the town centre car parks and, arising from this, that Cabinet be asked to review the charging periods and possibly to reduce them if justified by the usage levels. The data collected suggested that the trend in town centre car parks over the last 12 months remained largely unchanged indicating that there had been no significant factors that had affected car park usage after 18.30 but that there was reluctance to pay to use the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) car park after 18.30.


Cabinet had considered objections to the proposal to create a formal pay and display car park at Highfield Road (South) at its meeting on 24 May 2018. Cabinet had confirmed the proposal but asked that a review into usage and any displacement arising from this should be reviewed after 6 months. Due to the need to carry out preparatory works the pay and display operation did not come into effect until February 2019. Usage figures collected since that time suggested that the car park had previously attracted a significant level of parking linked to residential properties, unauthorised long stay uses (dumping of vehicles) and by employees working in the town centre. The car park had subsequently become little used but there had been no evidence of disproportionate displacement into adjoining residential streets and no complaints from local residents or Members.       


Members questioned the level of displacement from the Highfield Road (South) car park and said that parking along Highfield Road was severely restricted due to yellow lines and that local residents had to compete with other road users for parking with the result that cars were also parking in neighbouring roads, causing considerable upset to residents. It was noted that the car park was now not being used and given the degree of upset caused to local residents and the minimal amount of revenue generated by the car park, Members felt that the charges should either be removed or that some form of dispensation or permit should be given to residents. It was noted that all of these options were available if Cabinet so wished but that where residents permit schemes were operated elsewhere in the borough there was an annual charge of £50 to residents. The Chairman reminded Members that if free car parking was to be re-introduced it would need to be seen to be fair in the context of the wider parking arrangements across the borough and that the costs of removing abandoned vehicles might increase. Another Member highlighted the effect that the change to the hours of operation of the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) was having on users of the Gurdwara and the Church and felt that the hours should revert back to the original hours of operation.


The Cabinet Advisory Panel agreed to recommend that the Cabinet should reconsider the charging regimes for both of the car parks in light of the impact on residents arising from the changes and the level of displacement observed by local Members. In particular that the hours of operation of the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) car park should revert to 08.00 to 18.30 and that the Highfield Road (South) car park should either be a free car park or that some form of dispensation or permit scheme should be introduced for local residents.    


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