PARKING charges in the city centre are step for another steep rise in a move that has been branded “highway robbery”.
In a move expected to spark anger amongst motorists, the council intends to increase on street parking fees by up to 11.7 per cent, while residents’ parking permits will climb by up to 5.3 per cent.
The worst affected areas include the Stafford Street and Melville Street area, which will rise from £3.40 to £3.80 for an hour. Areas such as George Street and St Andrew Square will see the hourly rate rise 10.5 per cent from £3.80 to £4.20.
Conservative transport spokesman Nick Cook told the Evening News the new parking charges could have a detrimental impact on city centre businesses.
He said: “Once again the public are subjected to the council’s parking price hike bonanza. For too many, this will feel like highway robbery.
“In particular, this budget inflicts disproportionately high prices increase on city centre parking. At a time of rising Scottish taxes, these huge hikes will do nothing to support business, including hardworking local traders.
“Coupled with fresh council tax hikes, many will see the parking permit price rises as little more than a revenue generating exercise. Given the state of our roads, people will be left wondering where the money is actually going.”
The increases in parking permits start at 3.1 per cent and depend on the resident’s zone and vehicle engine size.
Transport convenor Lesley Macinnes said the new parking charges would make people think twice about driving in the city centre.
She said: “Clearly we are looking at rising fees across a number of areas of council services because we need to. With parking it is slightly odd, often you get odd percentages because you can’t ask someone to put less than a 20p coin into a parking meter.
“Parking is a perennial problem in the city and we would much prefer it if people weren’t bringing their cars in.
“I don’t want anything to be viewed as a deterrent for anyone coming into the city. It may make people think about bringing their cars to the city centre which, from the point of view of improving congestion, can’t be anything but a good thing. But that’s very much the individual’s choice.
“We have an excellent public transport network, which I wish people would use.
“Inevitably a lot of our policies are looking to encourage people to use active travel or public transport. I wouldn’t say that was a reason behind any parking charge rises.
“Having a car in Edinburgh is a choice and that’s a choice we have to make work for everybody.”
Freezing weather over the winter months has taken its toll across the city with drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike becoming increasing frustrated at the number of potholes appearing on the roads.
Tony Kenmuir, chairman of Central Taxis, said: “There is no doubt that as potholes appear every winter it has a big effect on taxis and we all find ourselves spending more money on suspension parts.
“But the roads are just shocking on an ongoing basis. When you’re taking people to and from the airport along the Corstorphine corridor and they’re visitors to Edinburgh and you’re bumping around all over the place, it doesn’t give a good impression of the city.
“There are potholes everywhere, but on major arterial routes you feel it’s unforgivable.”
The council received 146 claims last year for damage due to potholes. So far 53 have been successful, resulting in a pay-out of £10,140.54.
Cllr Macinnes told the Evening News the pothole issue had been accelerated due to the wintery conditions over the past few months. She said: “Any potholes are never welcome to anyone, whether you’re a driver, a cyclist or a pedestrian, but clearly as a city we’re not alone in this.
“The bad winter months have accelerated some of the issues on the roads and that’s what people are noticing.
“However, our Road Services Improvement Plan is getting into place now and we’re working our way through to make a considerable difference to the amount of potholes that we’re able to deal with, and deal with quickly.
The money will go across the board, including road repairs and resurfacing. We’re assessing all the time to see where needs it most and putting the funds into that area as soon as possible.
“There are problems dotted around the city, but we’re well aware of them and will get them sorted. We have additional squads out there and we’re doing more now to try and improve the current situation.”
Cllr Cook said winter always posed a challenge for the condition of city roads.
He said: “It’s not credible to suggest a short spell of winter weather is the cause of the poor condition of our carriageways.
“For too long the council’s rhetoric has failed to match the reality. Too many residents feel there is a pothole pandemic affecting the city.”
However, Cllr Macinnes is adamant the spending of £100m on roads and pavements, including transport links, will benefit the whole of the city.
She said: “We’re placing just as much emphasis on improving transport links for the people that live in outlying communities too. In the west, for example, we’ve been able to identify additional investment to reinstate Burnshot Bridge, replacing a vital transport link for the local community.
“We are spending £100m on roads and pavements so the investment is considerable, not just in money, but how we’re servicing those problems.
“I do hope, however, that the people of the city notice how much we have spent with the additional allocated funding.