Gordon Henderson: Sunday parking charges to do harm

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AND on it goes, yet another thoughtless move by the city council to penalise car drivers and anyone who does 
 not live in the city centre.

The comment piece in yesterday’s News that the new parking charges are a revenue generator was spot on. According to RAC Foundation figures, Edinburgh already rakes in over a third of all parking income in Scotland, more than any other council by a long way. In a clear sign that this is just a tax on car owners, the council only invests 38 per cent of this revenue on parking, the lowest amount of any council in Scotland. Why not spend this money providing adequate parking?

On Monday I attended a presentation on the vision for Edinburgh and its surrounding region if the City Deal bid is successful, and I very much hope that it is. However, if you want to encourage people to set up businesses in the city or visit from neighbouring regions to do business, then make it easier for them. The last thing we need is to risk further damage to the goose that lays the golden egg.

I live just seven miles from the city centre but buses all take an hour or more to get there, and if I want to go anywhere other than Princes Street it takes considerably longer. People living in Fife, Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian are a key customer base for the city’s shops, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions but they’re not feeling the love. What impact will the new parking policy have on these people?

If I want to take my family into the city for the day I wait till Sunday. Like most dads, I get persuaded to buy clothes, jewellery, pizzas and hot chocolates and we all have a great day out. If Sunday parking is to be charged my day gets more expensive but I can’t see what new service I’m getting for my money. Maybe if we could see the council spending its parking revenue – our money – on a transport system that works for us all and that makes cars superfluous then we would all be happy. But it isn’t . . . and we aren’t!

These parking measures have already been consulted on and rejected, it’s time to come up with some new ideas. The Scottish Government is committed to undertaking a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment for all new or significantly altered regulation before it can be implemented, why should we not expect the same rules to apply to the council? Where’s the evidence that the introduction of Sunday parking charges will have no detrimental effect on the city’s footfall?

The long and short of it is that at a time when city centre businesses are still struggling to get back on their feet after the tram construction debacle, it is surely highly damaging for the council to hit them again with theses parking charges. They should withdraw the proposal now.

Gordon Henderson is senior development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses