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Spring Vale Car Park - Review of Operating Hours

16/09/2019 - Review of Charging Periods for Highfield Road Car Parks

The Cabinet considered 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 amended 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 and by employees of commercial businesses. 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.         


It was noted that the Cabinet Advisory Panel had questioned the level of displacement from the Highfield Road (South) car park and felt that, given that the car park was not now being used, the degree of upset caused to local residents, and the minimal level of revenue generated by the car park, the charges should either be removed or that some form of dispensation or permit should be given to residents. 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.


The Chairman said that it was clear that users of the Spring Vale car park, including the Gurdwara and local residents, were keen for the charging period to end at 18.30 and would benefit from this change. The situation with the Highfield Road (South) car park had correctly been subject to review as it had been clear that the car park had attracted unauthorised long stay uses, dumped vehicles, car repair work and use by employees of commercial businesses before the introduction of the pay and display arrangements. These uses were not the reason why the Council provided car parks. The fact that the car park was now significantly under-used pointed to the fact that much of the previous usage was not legitimate. The current level of usage now meant that the car park was not serving a valuable purpose nor supporting town centre regeneration. He noted the views expressed by the Cabinet Advisory Panel and felt that there was merit in considering some form of paid resident’s permit parking scheme in the car park and possibly in Highfield Road. He felt that  part of the car park should still remain available on a pay and display basis. The Cabinet felt that this would provide a reasonable compromise to meet the needs of local residents and car park users.




1.    That the charging period for pay and display car parking at the Highfield Road (Spring Vale) car park should be 08:00 to 18:30; and 


2.    That consideration be given to the introduction of a Residents’ Permit parking scheme at the Highfield Road (South) car park and along Highfield Road as outlined above and that a scheme be developed for consultation with affected residents.