Councillors have agreed to the introduction of late afternoon free parking at one car park in Elgin – but refused to back a plea that the trial introduction be introduced at all car parks.
Members of the economic development and infrastructure committee debated the move proposed by the Elgin BID that the local authority mirror a scheme conducted in Falkirk aimed at improving footfall in the town centre.
However, while the Falkirk trial ran for 15 months and covered all car parking, in Elgin it would be for only six months and apply only to the under-used Batchen Lane multi-story car park.
For the trial this summer parking at the site would be free from 3pm each day – with the committee chairman, Councillor John Cowe, revealing that several local stores would be running special promotions to encourage shoppers into the town and that Marks and Spencer would also match the free parking offer at their own car park.
Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross welcomed the initiative – but attempted to put in place a motion that the decision be delayed until the next meeting of the Full Council in three weeks so that consideration could be given to the scheme applying to all car parking in the town.
His move was rejected as no other member of the committee was prepared to second his motion. Councillor Ross insists, however, that he will still attempt to force the issue when all members are present.
After Tuesday’s meeting he said: “I think this is an excellent idea that was promoted by Elgin BID and they were able to highlight the successful trial held in Falkirk. My only concern was that it only applies to one car-park when I think it should apply to them all.
“I don’t believe this will have a huge financial impact as people who work in Elgin and have to pay their parking fee will have already done so by 3pm – we are simply looking to make it easier for people to stop and shop locally after work or after picking their kids up at school.
“While I didn’t get support in the chamber today I have already spoken with legal services about wording for a motion to bring the issue up at Full Council at the end of the month. I will be asking all Councillors to support the scheme being extended to all car parks in Elgin, if agreed it won’t delay the trial as it isn’t due to start until the summer.
“This will no doubt be welcomed by businesses in Elgin and will also send out a far clearer message to people in Moray that all car-parks in Elgin are free after 3pm rather than having people wonder which car parks have a charge and which don’t.
“The fact is we are looking to adopt this scheme because there are not enough people using the car parks and then shopping in the town so the biggest difference will be people using a space for free rather than it being left empty as is often the case.
“This is a win-win situation where the council can be seen to display a can do attitude towards economic development and helping the businesses in Elgin while hopefully the extra footfall will mean more business for our local shops.”