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Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council

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Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council

    TONBRIDGE & MALLING BOROUGH COUNCIL

    CAR PARKING CHARGES ADVISORY BOARD

    21 July 2009

    Report of the Director of Planning Transport and Leisure

    and the Director of Finance

    Part 1- Public

    Matters for Recommendation to Cabinet - Non-Key Decision (Decision may be taken

    by the Cabinet Member)

1 CAR PARKING FEES, CHARGES AND OPERATIONS ANNUAL REVIEW

    Summary

    The current level of fees and charges for the Borough car parks are

    analysed in the context of the current financial climate, car park usage

    monitoring and the needs of the local economy. After careful analysis the

    recommendation is that, apart from consideration of season tickets and a

    possible review of the regime at Lower Castle Field car park, current tariffs

    should remain broadly unaltered.

    1.1 Introduction

    1.1.1 The Council annually reviews all of its fees and charges for the services it

    provides for the local community and this includes those associated with car

    parking. This year the review has been undertaken at a time when many

    residents and businesses in the Borough are facing particularly difficult financial

    circumstances and this has had an important influence on the conclusions

    reached in this report.

    1.1.2 In considering car parking charges, the Board will recognise that there is an

    important element of financial planning required for a service that needs to be

    managed as effectively, efficiently and economically as possible. However, it

    must also be recognised that managing parking is critically important in supporting

    the local economy of the town and village centres and protects residents in many

    streets where inappropriate parking would otherwise take place.

    1.1.3 The cost of providing the service and the associated investment in parking plans

    and car park improvement schemes should, in line with Council policy, be met at

    least in part by the customers who use and benefit directly from the service

    provided.

    1.1.4 Consequently, the annual consideration of charging levels is a careful assessment

    of whether there needs to be a change in the balance. It is worth stressing again CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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    at the outset that a fundamental factor in this year’s review is the current adverse

    economic climate and how that is affecting local residents and businesses in their

    choices around trips involving parking.

    1.2 Continuity of Investment in the Parking Service

    1.2.1 Borough Council investment in the parking service has continued throughout the

    period since the last report to this Board in the summer of 2008. Regular reports

    to the Planning & Transportation Advisory Board have described a range of

    improvements being carried out as part of the adopted Parking Action Plan and

    the programme of car park enhancements.

    ? The Capital Plan provision for car park improvement works amounts to

    ?70,000 in the current year and it has been directed at works at Western

    Road, Borough Green, at Lower Castle Fields, Bradford Street and at River

    Lawn Road car park.

    ? Currently a new car park is being installed at River Walk in Tonbridge. The

    main aim of the work is to free up access at this location in accordance with

    covenants on the land and the best way of doing so and to manage the

    area properly was to create this new small car park.

    ? The Capital Plan provision for the Parking Action Plan has been topped up

    each year by ?25,000 enabling Local Parking Plans to be adopted for

    Borough Green and Snodland. The Plan for Borough Green was

    implemented during 2008 and the work at Snodland is currently underway.

    Work on the East Malling Plan is envisaged to commence in the Autumn.

    ? In parallel with the parking policy and improvement schemes, there is a

    parallel and substantial programme of maintenance work amounting to

    some ?100,000 from revenue budgets. 1.2.2 In addition to these budgets, there is also the parallel provision of the Council

    parking enforcement service using the Council’s team of ten Civil Enforcement

    Officers (formerly Parking Attendants until changed by the Traffic Management

    Act) and the small support team of officers based in the Parking Office at the

    Castle.

    1.2.3 Into the future, the Action Plan provides for local parking planning work at East

    Malling and Aylesford, for work on the general phased programme of parking

    management solutions at locations borough-wide and for continued maintenance

    and improvement works in the car parks.

    1.2.4 Taken altogether, this represents a considerable and continuing investment in

    providing the local community in this Borough with a comprehensive and

    integrated parking service.

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1.3 Scope and Context of the Review

    1.3.1 Following the pattern of previous reviews, the focus will be firstly on existing

    charging arrangements and whether these can or should be altered. Secondly,

    there will be consideration of any additional potential revenue streams from new

    charges.

    1.3.2 As already mentioned, the review is fundamentally influenced by the current

    national economic situation. More particularly is the extent to which this might

    have affected local people and is demonstrated through the impact upon the

    parking service and what implications this might have for the review. The fact is

    that there is already manifest evidence from budget monitoring that the recession

    is having a considerable impact. Usage of the car parks is down, people are

    parking for shorter periods and compliance with waiting restrictions has increased

    markedly over the past year. The latter seems partially a result of economic

    factors combined with local reaction to much clearer parking management

    regimes introduced in recent times.

    1.3.3 Some of this trend is undoubtedly down to widespread use of the concessionary

    fares scheme. There may also be some contribution from the Freedom Pass for

    school children resulting in a drop in linked trips. This is no bad thing in overall

    sustainability and transport terms but it does have an impact on the financial

    aspects of the Council’s parking service. Nevertheless, by far the greatest

    influence seems to be the general down-turn in the economy and it is a

    demonstration of just how difficult conditions are for the small and medium sized

    businesses in the Borough and equally for the residents who rely on the services

    and goods they provide.

    1.3.4 That this is so has an important bearing on this review. The response to a

    decrease in income could be to increase the price so as to restore the income to

    previous expectations. We believe that this would be a fundamentally wrong

    approach particularly when there is no inflationary justification for doing so. The

    local economy is clearly under significant stress and this is demonstrated in all of

    the income streams across the Council. In such circumstances, any proposal to

    promote a general increase in tariffs appears to be the wrong way forward for the

    local economy. It is also likely to be wrong in business terms because such a

    move could very well suppress demand in the car parks even further resulting in

    less income.

    1.3.5 For these reasons, there can be no real justification for any general increase in

    the fees and charges for car parking in this year’s review and the key

    recommendation of this report is for no general alteration to the current schedule

    of prices.

    1.3.6 Similarly, the permit parking zones have only recently been introduced and these

    are steadily settling down. They have successfully dealt with the adverse impacts

    of commuter parking in the many locations where this was occurring to the CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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    detriment of local residents and businesses. The same economic factors that

    have informed the advice on fees in the car parks are relevant to the price of

    parking permits and the recommendation is that these should be retained at the

    current rate of ?30 for a resident permit and ?120 for a business permit. 1.4 Potential Adjustments

    1.4.1 Having said that, there are a small number of anomalies and inconsistencies that

    still persist in the pricing structure and there is merit in continuing to strive for a

    simple and rational charging system. These could usefully be identified as part of

    a review in a year of very little proposed change.

    1.5 Lower Castle Field Car Park

    1.5.1 The first of these relates to Lower Castle Fields car park. At the last review, the

    weekday charging regime was aligned for the first time with all of the other town

    centre car parks but Saturday mornings were given a unique tariff and Saturday

    afternoons were left free of charge. All of this reflected a continuing feeling that

    Lower Castle Field car park occupied a special place among the town centre car

    parks. It supports a number of social, leisure and sporting uses including the

    swimming pool and the current operating regime assists sporting activities on

    Saturdays. However, it also takes its place among the other town centre car

    parks because it serves an important function for visitors and business customers

    in the town centre since it is conveniently close and accessible to the High Street. 1.5.2 These competing needs have been monitored over time and have been carefully

    managed. In recent years, the pool use was dealt with through a dual ticketing

    arrangement which provides for a partial refund of the car park charge for pool

    users and this has been working effectively. There is also in operation a permit

    arrangement to assist those coaching the junior footballers, agreed in conjunction

    with the local sporting interests and it appears to be also working effectively. This

    illustrates that it is possible to achieve a good workable balance between parking

    management needs and local community support through sensitive and

    responsive arrangements.

    1.5.3 With the pool use supported by a dual ticketing system and the junior football

    coaches assisted through permit arrangements, the continued price differential on

    Saturday morning and no charge at all on Saturday afternoon warrants careful

    assessment. Such charging policy may not in practice help the sports interests as

    much as perceived because the fact that the car park is free on Saturday

    afternoons leads to spaces being taken up by non-sports users. This is not

    helpful either from a financial point of view since a considerable quantity of free

    parking convenient for the High Street shops is being made available and it draws

    custom away from other paying car parks.

    1.5.4 In the overall context of parking budgets the likely yield of bringing Saturday

    parking in line with other town centre car parks is almost notional and the main

    driver would be to simplify the charging system and doing away with anomalies. CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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    Nevertheless, there would be some additional income although in the current

    circumstances this is very difficult to estimate but could be in the region of ?8 -

    10,000 a year.

    1.5.5 Before any firm way forward on this matter is adopted it is proposed that

    consultation be undertaken to assess in identifying what the implications would be

    were charges in Lower Castle Field car park to be made consistent with the other

    town centre car parks by removing the Saturday morning differential and

    extending charging to the afternoon. This would need to include consultation with

    the main sports users on Saturdays, co-ordinated through the Tonbridge Sports

    Association. The intention would be to report back on the results later in the year. 1.6 Season Tickets

    1.6.1 Some years ago the Board established an approach to setting season ticket

    prices in the Tonbridge car parks. This is based on a discount off of the

    annualised cost of a daily ticket. For example, an annual season ticket allows

    parking in the long stay car parks for six days a week throughout the year. This

    amount is then halved for an annual season ticket, representing a 50% discount.

    The discount factors for six monthly and quarterly tickets are 55% and 60%

    respectively.

    1.6.2 Some councils do not provide such a discount when working out their season

    ticket prices, justifying this stance on the basis that the benefit in having a season

    ticket rests mainly with the customer who is relieved of the task of obtaining a

    ticket each time they use the car park. Without getting drawn into analysis of

    whether such an assertion is right or wrong, it does prompt the question whether

    the degree to which the season ticket is discounted in the Tonbridge car parks is

    appropriate.

    1.6.3 Further evidence that there is scope for assessing season ticket prices is provided

    by the significant differential that exists between the current cost for an annual

    season ticket in the railway car park and the nearby Council car parks.

    ? Railway station car park annual season ticket - ?932.70

    ? Borough Council car parks annual season ticket - ?699 1.6.4 Notwithstanding the current financial climate, we believe the level of discounting in

    the price of a season ticket should be reviewed and the price differential between

    the station car park and the Borough Council car parks should be taken into

    consideration. However, in doing so, it should also be recognised that the

    availability of season tickets and a degree of discounting is an important part of

    the service to regular long stay car park users who work in Tonbridge and

    contribute to the local economy. This is a factor to be taken into account in the

    balance when setting the level of season ticket charges. CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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1.6.5 In any event there is an inherent difficulty in applying a discount. The ticket can

    be used six days a week throughout the year, an effective 313 days. However

    most users will only making use of it for five days each week during a calendar

    year from which should be deducted public and personal holidays. Consequently,

    the concept of a discount for season tickets has different price implications for

    people depending on how they use the car park throughout the year. 1.6.6 It is recommended therefore that any absolute figure of a discount be set aside

    but that the price still is set at a level that represents a saving over the annualised

    cost of paying each day to park as indicated in the following table.

     Current Fee Proposed Fee

    Annual 699 765

    Six monthly 385 420

    Quarterly 210 230

1.6.7 The estimated additional income from this change is ?20,000 but this is based on

    current levels of take up of season tickets being maintained, an important caveat

    during these uncertain financial times.

    1.7 New Sources of Revenue

    1.7.1 Three new sources of revenue have regularly been examined as part of the

    annual review of parking charges.

    ? Charging in the Northern Car Parks

    ? Extending the fee paying hours

    ? Sunday and Public Holiday charges for car parks

    1.7.2 Consistently, after careful consideration, the decision on all previous occasions

    has been to desist from introducing charges for these services. 1.8 Charging in the Northern Car Parks

    1.8.1 The first of these is the potential to introduce charges in the car parks in the

    northern part of the Borough. When last examined in 2008, the Board took the

    view that any proposal to introduce charges needed to be taken as part of a

    broader consideration of local parking planning and that it required to be taken

    through local consultations as part of work on the individual Local Parking Plans.

    In Borough Green a revised charging regime was successfully introduced,

    following local consultation, to achieve some parking management objectives. CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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1.8.2 The Parking Plan for Snodland has been drafted and adopted during the period

    between last autumn and the present and it is now being implemented. The

    question of parking charges was an integral part of the consultation on the Plan.

    The detailed analysis of parking in the town revealed no compelling case on

    parking management grounds for introducing charges in the town centre car park

    and this was echoed in the response from the local community and the Member

    Steering Group. It resulted in a recommendation in the endorsed Local Parking

    Plan that the car park continues to be free of charges. 1.8.3 The planned review of the West Malling Local Parking Plan and the drafting of a

    Local Parking Plan for Aylesford have yet to take place. Any review of car park

    charging is dependant on the results of that work and the outcome of the public

    consultations associated with each of those projects. 1.9 Extending the Fee Paying Hours

    1.9.1 The charging hours in the town centre car parks are between 8am and 6pm.

    Many Councils are now charging earlier in the morning and later in the evening

    and, indeed in some cases, for overnight parking. The primary reason why this

    was rejected as a potential option at the last meeting was that, following analysis

    of usage, it presented serious risk to other Council revenue streams from leisure

    related activities at the Angel Centre.

    1.9.2 In effect, it would be perverse to create a situation where some additional parking

    income was outweighed by a greater drop in leisure income, particularly during

    the current financial down-turn and contrary to the health objectives in the

    Council’s improvement priorities. Therefore the case for not extending the

    charging hours appears even more compelling this year than when it was

    considered last year.

    1.10 Sunday and Public Holiday Charging

    1.10.1 The group of Councils across Kent that have free parking on a Sunday has been

    diminishing each year and there are now only five that do not do so. There has

    been a consistent view from the Board each year that local circumstances

    militated against introducing charges for Sundays and public holidays. 1.10.2 There would undoubtedly be potential for generating additional income, possibly

    as much as ?50,000 but there would also need to be some consideration of

    additional enforcement activity and of the on-street waiting restrictions that are

    predominantly based on Monday to Saturday controls. 1.10.3 The position therefore remains as it was last year. In the event of the Council

    wishing to consider Sunday charging as a possibility, there would need to be a full

    assessment of the implications in terms of enforcement resources and operational

    management needed to support it as well as careful consideration of the views of

    the local community on such a fundamental change in the charging regime. CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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1.11 Legal Implications

    1.11.1 The powers for the Borough Council to carry out parking management activity are

    contained in Sections 32 and 35 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984,

    supplemented by agreement with the County Council as highway authority in

    respect of its powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004. 1.11.2 Other than the requirement to make a variation order to reflect the proposed

    change in season ticket prices and a variation to the Off Street Parking Places

    Order, there are no other legal implications. In conjunction with the Chief Solicitor,

    the required notice and variation order can be drafted and advertised as required

    by the relevant regulations.

    1.12 Financial and Value for Money Considerations

    1.12.1 As in previous years, this review has examined a range of existing and potential

    parking fees and charges in the context of continuing investment by the Borough

    Council to improve the service both on and off street. In doing so, it has sought to

    continue the work of producing a simple structure of charges that can be readily

    understood by the customers of the service.

    1.12.2 It has produced recommendations based on applying a consistent, fair and

    harmonised approach to parking management across the Borough. It has

    adopted an approach based on the need to support the Medium Term Financial

    Strategy while at the same time fully considering local social and economic

    circumstances.

    1.13 Risk Assessment

    1.13.1 The proposed season ticket prices still represent good value relative to the

    annualised cost of paying the daily rate for long stay parking. The possibility of

    realigning the charges in Lower Castle Field with other town centre car parks

    would have the effect of removing a facility that has the potential to drain custom

    away from the other fee paying car parks. Both of these proposals are modest in

    the overall context of the parking budgets and can be considered low risk. 1.14 Recommendations

    1.14.1 That consultations for the charging system for Lower Castle Field car park to be

    aligned with the one that currently exists in Upper Castle Field be carried out

    through the Tonbridge Sports Association.

    1.14.2 That the price of a season ticket for the Tonbridge long stay car parks be adjusted

    in accordance with the table shown at 1.6.6

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    1.14.3 That all other charges remain unaltered as part of this year’s review. The Director of Planning Transport and Leisure confirms that the proposals contained in

    the recommendation(s), if approved, will fall within the Council's Budget and Policy Framework.

    Background papers: contact: Michael McCulloch Nil

Steve Humphrey Sharon Shelton

    Director of Planning Transport & Leisure Director of Finance

CarParkingAB-NKD-Part 1 Public 21 July 2009

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