PARKING charges are set to rise by up to 20 per cent in the Capital with the cost in the priciest streets jumping to £3.80 per hour – a full £1 more than it was just five years ago.
The proposed increases will be agreed later this week as part of the city council’s 2017/18 budget.
But there were warnings today that the continued rise in the cost of parking would deter shoppers from coming into the city centre.
Hourly parking rates will rise by 20p or 40p according to the street. The increases will come into force in April and follow similar rises a year ago.
But the cost of residents’ parking permits is being frozen.
Parking in George Street, St Andrew Square, Charlotte Square, Queen Street, Market Street and Cockburn Street will increase from the current £3.60 per hour to £3.80 – a rise of 5.5 per cent. In 2012/13, the cost of parking in the same streets was £2.80.
Parking in Glasgow city centre currently costs £3 an hour.
Neil Greig, Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) head of policy for Scotland, said an inflation-linked increase in charges would be reasonable.
But he added: “An increase above the rate of inflation should only be introduced if you are improving the service in some way. I’m not aware of the council doing anything to improve the consumer aspect of parking with extra spaces or new machines or anything.
“This is an increase which will unfortunately put people off shopping in central Edinburgh.”
And he called for a broader look at parking provision in the city centre.
“We would like to see a detailed review of on-street parking to eke out a few more spaces and maximise the turnover of people coming in to visit the shops.”
Parking charges in the Stafford Street and Melville Street area, Morrison Street to Shandwick Place and the Old Town will rise from £3 per hour to £3.40 – an increase of 13.3 per cent. Five years ago, it was just £2.20.
In the Palmerston Place area, Moray Place, South Side/Nicolson Street, Tollcross/Fountainbridge and Heriot Row, the charge will go up from £2.60 to £3 – a 15.4 per cent increase.
Motorists parking in the Northumberland Street/St Stephen Street/Royal Crescent area of the New Town will see the cost increase from £2.40 to £2.80, a 16.7 per cent rise. Five years ago it was £1.80.
And in Bruntsfield, Sciennes, St Leonard’s, Dumbiedykes, Stockbridge, Dean, the charge will rise from £2 to £2.40 – a 20 per cent increase. In 2012/13 it was £1.40.
On-street parking in the rest of the controlled zone will go up from £1.80 to £2 – an 11.1 per cent rise.
Conservative group transport spokesman Nick Cook condemned the scale of the increases over the past five years as “completely unacceptable”.
He said: “We have consistently criticised disproportionate increases in parking charges year after year.
“We all accept that prices do rise, but it’s clear motorists continue to be treated as a cash cow by the city council.
“Parking charges should not automatically rise every year as we have seen them do over the past five years.
“It has been evident for a long time the council has an anti-car agenda. It’s critically important that it now looks at the wider impact of continual increases on the city, not least retail and hospitality.”
Tony Bryer, chair of the George Street Association, said: “A rise of 20p on £3.60 is not a vast amount, but over the five years it has gone up a lot. Any increase is to be regretted but most of the time we bite the bullet and carry on.”
Nigel Bagshaw, Green transport spokesman on the council, backed the increase in parking charges.
He said: “All successful city centres in the 21st century thrive on making pedestrians the priority. For that reason and to address the growing problems of congestion and air pollution, it is right to encourage people to use alternatives to driving and parking in the city centre.
“However, the council really needs some consistency. It is absurd to have one regime out on the street and at the same time to be giving consent for 1800 car parking places as part of the new St James development at the east end of Princes Street.”
Business leaders said shoppers were not being put off visiting the city centre, but called for transparency on how money raised from charges is spent.
Gordon Henderson from the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Edinburgh has seen parking charges as a good source of income for the council for years, they’ve been going up and up. The real question is – what are they doing with the money?
“Car parking should really be used to improve the roads and sort out the thousands of potholes, instead of filling in a black hole in the council’s coffers.
“If people are worried about charges, it’s good news for places such as the Gyle, Fort Kinnaird, Straiton, where you can park the car for free.”
City transport leader Lesley Hinds said the increase in on-street parking charges and the zero rise for residents’ parking permits was part of a three-year parking strategy for the city.
“Parking permits went up last year,” she said. “There is a balance to be struck in terms of getting income into the council but not putting up charges too much.
“No motorist who uses parking spaces likes it when the charge goes up, but we need to bring income into the council so we don’t have to make even more cuts.”
The council agreed last year that parking charges should be extended to Sundays, but that will not happen until 2018 at the earliest. Cllr Hinds said at the time the move would bring Edinburgh into line with many other cities, including Glasgow, Dundee and Manchester.
But the council agreed the charges would not start until 12.30pm after protests from various groups, particularly churches, about the impact they would have on their activities.