NEXT YEAR: Free evening parking in Newcastle city centre is set to end
Eldon Square car park, Newcastle, Image: NCJ Media Eldon Sqaure multi-storey car park, Newcastle.
Free evening parking in Newcastle city centre is set to come to an end early next year.
It emerged earlier this week that transport bosses were expected to axe the Alive After Five free parking offer from the majority of the city centre’s multi-storeys.
And just three days after refusing to confirm details of plans teased by a city business chief, Newcastle City Council has now announced its proposals for a major shake-up that will hit drivers with a raft of new charges in a bid to “manage demand” and slash air pollution.
As revealed by the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Tuesday, five of the seven council-run car parks that are currently free after 5pm will see that offer scrapped, Eldon Square, Eldon Garden, Dean Street, Oxford Street, and Grainger Town.
Those five sites will all have parking charges extended to 10pm, as will all on-street parking bays and surface car parks within the core city centre.
The Quayside and Manors multi-storeys, both also part of Alive After Five, will instead be free after 6pm, which will also remain the cut-off time for fees at the Claremont Road car park near the Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Under the council’s proposals, a £3 all-day rate for Sunday parking in the city centre will also be binned and drivers will instead have to pay standard hourly rates.
The local authority said the changes, which will generate an extra £230,000 in revenue a year, would “help manage demand for parking and support measures being introduced in the city to improve air quality”.
Labour councillor Ged Bell, the council’s cabinet member for development, neighbourhoods and transport at Newcastle City Council, said: “The proposals we have set out reflect the need to manage and respond to changing demand for car parking in the city centre.
“We’ve not only seen changes to the way in which people travel, work, shop and spend time in the city centre since the pandemic, but also a change to the way in which businesses are operating.
“We must also take into account the need to reduce air pollution and our carbon footprint – both of which are greatly affected by the volume of traffic on our roads.
“We’re continuing to work with neighbouring councils and public transport providers to deliver network and service improvements for people travelling into Newcastle from our residential neighbourhoods and the wider region.”
The council said the changes, which will be subject to a three-week public consultation starting later this month, would likely be introduced “early next year” and that “all feedback will be considered before a final decision is made”.
The Alive After Five initiative was first launched in 2010 and also includes later opening hours for businesses, with the project credited with boosting the city centre’s economy by hundreds of millions of pounds.
Stephen Patterson, chief executive of city centre business improvement district company NE1 Ltd, revealed earlier this week that the free parking offer was set to be axed.
Robin Ashby, the Newcastle Lib Dem opposition’s city centre spokesperson, said that “incentivising people to use cars to drive into the city centre is no longer a sustainable choice”.
Coun Ashby added: “We are mindful that times are still difficult for retail, restaurants, and cultural venues and we want to see a vibrant evening economy in the city centre particularly as we enter the Christmas shopping season. The council should take this opportunity to work with NE1 and transport operators to ensure support for affordable and convenient public transport offers to significantly reduce driving into the city centre to enjoy an evening of shopping, dining, or the cinema or theatre”.
Taymar Pitman, of the Newcastle Green Party, said it was “high time” the council stopped offering free car parking in the city centre.
She added: “Obviously it is not great for motorists, but this is the ideal time to find alternatives to driving.
“The council has said they are looking at better cycle parking facilities and transport hubs and that will be key.
“I have seen people online saying that they will just go to the Metrocentre instead and I understand why it has taken the council so long to do this, because of the impact on the city centre. But I’m hopeful that they will plan accordingly and recognise that things need to change.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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