FEARS were voiced today that a £3 per hour parking charge in the heart of the Capital could drive shoppers out of town.
The cost of pay-and-display parking in key parts of the city centre will go up from April 1 as part of a city council bid to raise extra revenue.
And with shopping centres like the Gyle and Ocean Terminal allowing customers to park free, business experts warned shoppers could opt for out-of-town stores in a fresh blow to city centre traders already struggling because of the tramworks.
Pay-and-display parking in George Street, St Andrew Square, Charlotte Square, Queen Street, Market Street and Cockburn Street will go up from £2.80 to £3 per hour.
Charges for the Stafford Street and Melville Street area, Morrison Street to Shandwick Place and the Old Town will rise from £2.20 to £2.40 per hour.
Graham Birse, of Edinburgh Napier University’s business school, said the fact that Edinburgh’s out-of-town shopping centres were closer to the centre than in many cities made the free parking at places like the Gyle and Ocean Terminal more of a threat.He said: “Ocean Terminal is less than two miles from the city centre and the Gyle is less than three. That is something city-centre retailers are very conscious of.”
David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, believes businesses have already suffered enough with the tramworks. “As the city recovers from major upheaval and a tough economic climate, this is not good news for business. It is another increase in the costs of doing business in Edinburgh.
“At this time, we should be doing everything we can to support our businesses.”
Josh Miller, chairman of the George Street Association, said some people would be put off coming into the city centre because of the higher charges.
But he said: “The council knows it can put the price up here because the spaces are in so much demand and they’re not going to lose any money But we are concerned they are putting parking charges up year after year but not engaging seriously in trying to produce a proper plan for parking.”
Denzil Skinner, chair of Essential Edinburgh, which manages the city-centre business improvement district, said parking was one of the top priorities identified by businesses. He said: “While cost is clearly one issue, the bigger picture is the need for more and better parking to serve the city centre.
“We need to engage with creating a much more integrated and sensible solution to the need to cater for parking.”
Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “The surplus income generated by parking charges funds vital services that benefit the city’s transport infrastructure as a whole, such as pothole repairs.”