Sandra Dick: Time we stood up to parking barons

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I WAS mugged last week. Purse in one hand, car keys in the other, disbelief splattered across my face and wham, bam, thank you ma’am, my money was gone.

Quite unsettling it was. Particularly as my assailant was a large yellow box with the letters NCP stamped across its front.

Greedy so-and-so got away with £15.20 of my hard-earned cash for just four hours and ten minutes parking. At least, as the auld yins say, Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask . . .

I could almost have coped if I hadn’t already pumped £9.20 for three hours parking into the very same machine at St John’s Hill earlier that day – I’d only brought my car to work so I could nip to Aitken & Niven at lunchtime for some school sports kit (parking outside the shop, another quid).

Always look on the bright side, though. Had I parked at NCP’s Castle Terrace for just over the four-hour mark, I’d have pumped an astonishing £16.10 in the hungry mouth of the big yellow box. Worse, £24.10 for a six hours-plus stay.

I am of the generation that remembers when onstreet parking was little more than 20p for a couple of hours.

That said, I also remember parking on Princes Street, so, yes, I do need to get with the times.

However, I count up the cost of a day out in the city centre, where onstreet parking will cost £3.20 a hour from next month – 20p up on current charges – and wonder whether five hours shopping and lunch isn’t dear enough without racking up £16 in parking charges.

It’s not just visitors who are being stung. Soon residents will be paying more for their parking permits – a ten per cent increase was announced last year, along with extra “tram zone” areas being designated permit only zones.

The council charges are aimed at squeezing a further £2m from city drivers over the next four years. NCP, meanwhile, has what we need – a place to park without risk of being towed away – so can pretty much charge what it likes.

Of course, there are arguments in favour of making us cough up – park too cheaply and we might ignore public transport, clog up the roads and pollute the air.

However, at a time when marketing campaign This Is Edinburgh is trying to lure families and visitors back to town – and not everyone wants to or is physically able to take public transport – hitting them with a huge parking bill feels ever so counter-productive.

Twenty quid to park in the centre of town, or go somewhere else? Do the maths . . .