City parking strategy
The Edinburgh Chamber has played a significant role in coordinating the response of the business community to the City of Edinburgh Parking Strategy.
We issued a response in January 2006 to the Council's Parking Strategy consultation document (PDF):
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce believes that the City of Edinburgh Parking Strategy is an essential component of a wider Transport Strategy for the city centre in which access to shops and services by private car is considered desirable and in which public transport plays a vital part.
Our retail and tourism sectors, in particular, supporting more than 25,000 jobs in Edinburgh, depend upon ready access, by coach and car, to our hotels, restaurants, shops and visitor attractions. Moreover, the established businesses in the city need to work within an environment which permits their workers, suppliers and partners access to customers and markets.
Reconciling the transport needs and demands of a growing economy within a World Heritage Site is not straightforward and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce is the first to acknowledge the challenges facing the City of Edinburgh Council and its partners in this respect.
However, for too long our Parking Strategy has been led by a policy of enforcement that has been aggressively and inflexibly implemented by parking contractors, leading to the perception that private cars are not welcome in the city centre.
The new Parking Strategy has provided an opportunity to introduce policies which re-position Edinburgh in the minds of consumers as a city that is easily accessible by car, offering a wide variety of on and off-street parking. Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, therefore, broadly welcomes the Strategy and its recommendations.
Specific comments and recommendations
The Vision should be enshrined within a larger vision to present the city as an Inspiring Capital which is the most accessible and desirable city in the UK for visitors, residents and businesses. The current Vision isn't ambitious enough in this respect.
Off street parking
The pattern of utilisation of the 19 city centre car parks indicates apparent ample capacity within the existing provision. However, it is noted that occupancy of the two major city centre car parks is much higher (90%) than others, indicating a capacity problem at these locations.
Indeed it is believed that the car park in the St James Centre would benefit from doubling the capacity and this should be a prerequisite to the redevelopment of this site in order to stimulate the retail potential therein.
ECC believes that a new car park development in the West End is desirable to fulfil demand from visitors to the city from the north and west. We also support the 'Trevi' option currently being pursued by Edinburgh City Centre Management Company for off-street provision around the city centre area.
And we believe that improved signposting of the network of car parks would improve both demand and occupancy. This would also address the current (inaccurate) perception that on and off street car parks in Edinburgh are full.
The extension of park and ride provision is welcome, but frequent and efficient public transport to and from car parks will be necessary to support widespread use amongst visitors and shoppers.
On street parking
ECC supports the proposal for an annual review of charges and permitted length of stay. This would build more flexibility into the system to ensure that the Parking Strategy achieves its principle aim which is to support economic activity within the city.
ECC strongly supports the proposal to make parking within the CPZ free of charge on Saturdays after 1pm and weekdays after 5.30 pm as a strong incentive to visitors and shoppers in the city centre.
ECC supports the introduction of a graduated scale of penalties in which serious offenders have significant penalties imposed upon them and minor offenders lesser penalties. However, we would wish to study the proposed scale of charges before commenting further.
ECC strongly supports the introduction of changes to the way in which the current contractors are managed in favour of a more qualitative and customer-led approach. The perception of Edinburgh as a city in which private car owners are unwelcome is largely built upon the vigour with which its enforcement policies are pursued. Stories are legion of the 'enthusiasm' of enforcement officers and the administrative staff who support them and this has been harmful to the commercial environment in the city.
ECC strongly supports the introduction of business permits, providing all-day parking for liveried vans on the basis of one permit per business. This will help relieve the congestion, and tension, associated with legitimate business activities in the city centre area.
ECC strongly supports the proposal to permit liveried vehicles to load and unload from residents' spaces in the city centre area.
ECC also supports the introduction of a separate 'tradesperson's permit' allowing them to park off-peak in resident's bays. This arrangement has been successfully applied in other UK cities and helps to ensure that the city centre does not become a 'no go' area for businesses providing important support services to residents and business alike.
In all of the above cases, we would wish to study the proposed scale of charges before commenting further. We would not wish to see the cost to businesses and trades people exceed the equivalent cost to residents using the same spaces.
Other parking issues the Chamber wishes to raise:
- Parking Revenues. We recommend that all future income from parking charges is hypothecated and the money invested in implementing the wider Transport Strategy for the city.
- Monitoring. We recommend the application of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) supporting the Parking Strategy. These should be regularly assessed in order to measure progress.
- Communication. Regular communication on proposed changes to traffic regulation orders and other proposals impacting on the strategy should be undertaken with the business community. The present system of Public Notices in the local press is archaic and should be supported by a combination of new communication channels, like the web based system which supported the recent changes to the Central Edinburgh Traffic Management Scheme (CETM).
- Marketing. New signage and streetscape improvements in and around car parks needs to be supported by a Marketing Plan (and budget) for the city centre which promotes Edinburgh as the most attractive place in the UK to shop and visit. Other cities (Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool) are investing heavily in marketing campaigns. Edinburgh needs at least to match this investment.
- Surrounding areas. Communication of the Parking Strategy should be undertaken with the Councils and residents of the areas around Edinburgh is order to ensure that positive messages about the city centre are widely understood.
- Gender Balance. We advocate the employment of more female parking attendants in support of the new 'service led' approach recommended above.
- Appeals. Appeals against fixed penalties should be easier to expedite. For example, with the introduction of an online appeals form and access to customer information advisors, rather than a recorded telephone message.
- Information. The quality and accessibility of information on the availability of parking spaces, park and ride, location of car parks and the enforcement/appeals process needs to be substantially improved, ideally with the introduction of a real time web based solution.
- Integration. The Parking Strategy needs to be placed in the strategic context alongside other transport strategies and improvements in order to maintain its position alongside other projects, including trams, EARL, bus information etc.