PARKING for free slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh city centre sounds like an impossible dream. Unless, that is, you happen to be working on the tram project.
Hard-pressed commuters forced to circle the roadworks and businesses dealing with the disruption have not taken kindly to contractors on the project seemingly setting up their own fenced-off car park on Princes Street.
Up to eight cars a day have been spotted parked behind the temporary fencing between the Scott Monument and the Mound. However, the days of the parking free-for-all could now be numbered as city chiefs have vowed to take action.
Commuter Dave Ford, who travels past the site each day on the number 41 bus, was among those less than impressed.
He said: “This free car parking area started off a couple of weeks ago with maybe two or three cars parked per day. I now count five to seven cars parked there each day.
“I’d like to park for free instead of getting the bus to George Street, as I’m sure many other city centre workers.”
Grant McKeeman, who runs the Copymade printing shop in West Maitland Street and has repeatedly complained about the economic impact of the trams, said: “This is both a shambles and a disgrace.
“There was enough of a problem with parking around the city centre before the tram works began.
“Many small businesses are suffering as a result and for these contractors to get free parking is a joke. I would hope the council sorts this out.”
Earlier this week, the News reported how parking attendants had handed out more than 21,000 tickets in George Street over the last two years, generating around £650,000 for the city coffers.
Patrice McHenry, secretary of the George Street Association and who works at jewellers Hamilton & Inches, said: “Given George Street is the most ticketed street in Scotland, I would ask why these contractors’ cars are parked there. This matter should be investigated.”
Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said the council was aware of the issue.
He said: “This issue has been raised in the past at meetings regarding the tram works and the council had promised to be vigilant on the matter. The issue of a particular contractor using the compound when needed is not an issue but the dumping of half a dozen cars is unacceptable.”
City centre councillor, Joanna Mowat, said: “I can understand the frustration of commuters and traders that these contractors seem to be gaining free city centre parking.
“The project needs to be whiter than white given its long-running mismanagement and this situation doesn’t help.”
Council transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “Any vehicles parked within the site compound should have a legitimate reason to be there and we have asked the contractor to ensure that this is the case.”
Driven to distraction by workers
Campaigners hit out after part of the Meadows was turned into a “temporary car park” during a revamp in January 2009.
Up to ten cars a day were parked behind the temporary fencing, with many of them thought to belong to contractors working on the £60,000 project to resurface Middle Meadow Walk.
Traders in Leith Walk have made similar complaints about tram contractors parking their private cars in fenced-off areas along the street.