PARKING charges are set to soar in some of Edinburgh’s busiest city centre streets, it emerged today.
That represents an inflation-busting 7.7 per cent increase on the £2.60 currently charged and means that the fee has increased by more than 55 per cent in the last four years.
Meanwhile, busy New Town and Stockbridge streets will see an even greater increase, with the hourly charge in the area between Northumberland Street, St Stephen Street and Royal Crescent rising by 12.5 per cent to £1.80.
Motoring groups and businesses say that the increases could force people to stay away from the city centre, causing more pain for retailers already struggling in the downturn.
City leaders, however, insist that the measure is designed to encourage people to park on quieter streets in the city centre, where charges will be frozen.
Josh Miller, chairman of the George Street Association, said: “They are not doing anything to increase or facilitate better parking in the city centre and all they do is put prices up.
“People do like to bring their car into the city so putting prices up is not the answer.
“There does not appear to be an integrated plan that supports people bringing their car into town and encouraging them to shop in the centre.”
Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, added: “This seems counter-intuitive as they are the most popular streets because people want to go there.
“They may kill the geese that lay the golden egg. If you try to stop people parking where they want to you do risk making it more difficult for them to go into town at a time when businesses are already struggling.”
On-street parking on the busiest city-centre streets such as George Street increased by 60p per hour last April, meaning that the successive rises will have put prices up by 40 per cent in little over a year.
Charges in areas including the West End, Tollcross and Fountainbridge will remain frozen at £2 per hour, while the charge for the Old Town, the area between Shandwick Place and Morrison Street, Stafford Street and Melville Street will remain at £2.20 an hour.
Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “Overall, in net terms, it is a below-inflation increase but we are focusing charges in areas that there is demand.”
Residential parking permit costs will also rise by five per cent.
Other price rises, revealed as part of the council’s final budget for 2012/13, include a 3.2 per cent increase in the cost of additional nursery school hours, to £3.92 and a £4 increase in the cost of grass-cutting in the garden aid scheme. The cost of hiring council venues, holding events on public land and applying for licences will also rise at rates similar to inflation.
City finance leader Councillor Phil Wheeler said: “We have managed to try to hold most things to an inflationary basis. It is appropriate that users should pay a bit more for these services to ensure we can continue to supply these services.”