Parking changes from 4 April – what you need to know
On Monday 4 April 2022 we introduced some important changes to our car parks make them more sustainable to manage:
- Free parking is still available in the Vale but reduced to one hour a day*
- New fees apply if you want to stay for more than one hour – for details please see the schedule to the car parking orders.
- Other fees have increased by 40p
- New and renewed permits are now only valid for the specific car park they are issued for and will not be transferable
- where previously on offer, free parking remains available on Sundays.
*except for Southampton Street car park in Faringdon, which continues to offer two hours free parking a day.
Why do we need to make changes?
We need to make these changes because the level of subsidy needed to continue running our car parks, which residents pay for through their council tax, is no longer sustainable. The car parks were running at a loss of over £250,000 a year. Since the start of Covid-19, the shortfall has risen to almost £450,000 and with demand unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels soon, we need to act now to begin to reverse the deficit and make our car parks more sustainable in the future.
The current level of subsidy is more than 5 per cent of all the Council Tax the Vale receives each year and, even with the changes, there will still be a significant deficit. Council tax payers will therefore continue to support the costs of car parking for the foreseeable future to help local businesses, residents and visitors.
How much does it cost to run our car parks?
It costs almost £700,000 per year to operate and maintain our car parks. Income has been typically around £450,000 a year, however during 2021/22 it dropped to £250,000.
Why do the car parks cost so much to run?
Car parks may look like flat pieces of tarmac, but they cost a lot of money to maintain to ensure they are safe for people to use.
We need to make sure each car park is lit properly at night to help keep people safe. We also ensure the surface is safe for people walking through the car parks, and won’t cause any damage to vehicles.
We have to pay business rates for each car park and there are also the costs of enforcement, administration and maintaining ticket machines to take into account.
The multi-storey car park in Abingdon also costs significantly more to run than our other car parks due to the additional lighting, security and maintenance costs.
Why can’t we continue to subsidise parking?
In recent years the government has made substantial cuts to council funding and we’ve also experienced increased costs and a loss of income due to Covid-19.
We also have one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country which places a further strain on our finances. When costs have increased, current rules have largely prevented us from addressing this situation, meaning we’ve had to increase charges for some of our non-statutory services in order to raise additional income.
When we subsidise parking, we are using money which could be more useful to help support other public services. It’s our aim for car park users to cover the costs of this service, rather than the general council tax payer.
What issues did covid cause?
Covid-19 resulted in a significant loss of income for our car parks. During lockdowns, with shops forced to shut, our car parks were extremely quiet. Changing working patterns also mean we get less income as many people are now working at home rather than travelling into work and so use our car parks less frequently.
How did climate change influence our decision?
Tackling climate change is one of our main priorities and many of our residents would now rather see more public transport and safer and easier cycling and walking routes than us simply continuing to subsidise car parking.
What are we doing to improve transport, walking and cycling?
We are supporting those responsible – the county council and other public bodies, where we can, to make travel and infrastructure improvements, for example the Science Vale Cycling Network which is providing a much safer cycling route to work for many people in the district.
To help reduce emissions, we’re also working with the county council to install electric vehicle charging points in our town centre car parks.
These improvements rely on organisations coming together and public funding being made available, so they take time to be introduced. Alongside the other Oxfordshire councils, we are constantly calling on the government to provide the funding necessary to allow schemes, such as a new station in Grove and rail improvements across the area, to move forward.
How are we supporting local businesses?
We’ve ensured that one hour of free parking will still be available each day to help encourage people to visit our town centres. This is the same offer as that available to motorists for car parks in South Oxfordshire. You can also buy permits if you use our car parks on a regular basis or work from home.
Our fees also remain low and are cheaper than many other areas such as Oxford, Swindon and Newbury, where you would also need to pay the extra cost to travel to.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve supported businesses in our district and are now helping to boost trade town centres. You can find out more information on the work that our South and Vale Business Support team do, and sign up to the events and workshops they’re running via svbs.co.uk.
Won’t making these changes just force people to park elsewhere where roads/paths are already congested and cause problems?
It shouldn’t as we’re still offering free parking, our prices are still affordable and competitive compared to others and our car parks are often the nearest to our local shops and restaurants.
Could the increase in some fees put more people of using the car parks and reduce income further?
We’re still offering an hour’s free parking each day and our car parks are often the best places to park if you wish to visit our local shops and cafes.
The cost to park for more than an hour remains low compared to elsewhere, so we hope that won’t put anyone off coming to our town centres.
Most of our car parks remain free on a Sunday, and permits are available if you work or live in our towns and need to park there throughout the week.
Why is Southampton Street car park retaining two hours free parking while the rest go to one hour?
Faringdon’s main supermarket is out of town so we hope that by offering two hours free in this town centre car park we will continue to encourage people to support local trade.
What’s happening with the multi-storey Charter car park in Abingdon?
The lower levels of the Charter car park are open, but Levels 3 and upwards are closed until further notice due to concerns regarding structural issues and fire safety.
We’ve carried out work on the lower levels to ensure they are safe, however further assessment work is required to review the upper levels.
While the lower levels remain open space is very limited, so we’re encouraging motorists to use the other car parks in Abingdon.