AN EXTENSIVE study will be carried out on Pocklington’s car parks to help the town council decide their next move in the fight against charges.
Plans by East Riding Council to impose pay and display look set to be enforced next year, a move that has not been welcomed in many towns across the East Riding.
Pocklington Town Council have been told that to keep them free they would need to find £26,000 a year, which could mean a hike in the local council tax precept to help cover the costs.
But before making a decision - which they say will be taken after a public consultation - the town council has commissioned the Hull-based consultancy firm Panda People to carry out a survey.
The company will spend two weeks researching exactly where the car park users are from, the reasons for using the spaces, how long they spend parked there, access to parking and attitudes towards East Riding Council’s parking charge proposals.
They also plan to conduct around 300 questionnaire surveys covering all parking areas, residents and non-residents and long and short stayers, in appropriate numbers, as well as 20 short structured interviews with local business owners.
The survey findings will be presented at a public meeting.
Pocklington Town Council will pay £2,500 for the study, money which Mayor of Pocklington, Councillor Graham Perry, says is well spent.
He said: “Various people have various views on who is using these car parks and so forth, and it seems to me that we need to be in a position of knowing exactly who is using them.
“Panda are a professional organisation and they will give us a clearer idea of where we’re at, so in terms of this, it is money well spent.”
This was echoed by Councillor Martin Cooper, who instigated the idea.
He said: “It seemed to me only logical that we approach the issue in a practical way, we must understand the way the car parks are used before we commit to spending large sums of precept money, there are many views that contradict each other on the way people park in Pocklington, we need hard facts.”
Under East Riding Council’s parking charge proposals, the car parks on West Green and Station Road (front and back) would be free only for the first 30 minutes.
East Riding have informed Pocklington Town Council that this could be extended to two hours- if they pay an annual cost of £22,500, or take out leases on all three car parks for an annual charge of £26,000.
In order to pay for the scheme, the town council may have to impose an additional £7 to £10 per year on the rates bill for each Pocklington household.
First mooted almost three years ago, the East Riding Council’s proposal of imposing parking charges across the county was met with uproar and led to thousands signing petitions of protest. Many felt market towns were already struggling enough and charging people to park could prove devastating.
The idea was shelved because of the recession, but now seems likely to be imposed next year.
Coun Perry says the town council now must put the decision to the people and whether they should pay for to keep the car parks free.
He said: “To keep car parking free in Pocklington it’s going to cost £26,000 a year, which we can either take it out of the precept [council tax] or from the council’s reserves.
“My own personal view is against taking it out of the reserves- after ten years we would have taken £260,000, which is unacceptable.
“However, the council is of the view that we should listen to the people of Pocklington and see what they want us to do, which is quite right. The people need to understand the choices we have.”
Meanwhile, the town council’s six monthly will take place next week, 2 November at Pocklington Arts Centre starting at 7.30pm.
The parking charges will be discussed, along with other planned schemes such as the digitisation of the Arts Centre cinema and the venue’s vacant first floor room.
Town clerk Richard Wood added: “Particular emphasis will be paid to the forthcoming budget setting where the precept is set for the coming year.
“There are various pressures on our budget in the next year and we would like residents to share with us their priorities. Councillors will then take this on board when they agree the precept for the next year.”