New £1 coin blamed for Blackpool parking charge hike

An old photo of Central Car Park, Blackpool.
An old photo of Central Car Park, Blackpool.
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Next month’s parking hike in Blackpool – with some fees going up 65 per cent – has been partially blamed on the new £1 coin.

The 12-sided coin is set to be introduced on Tuesday in a bid to beat counterfeiters, but town hall officials said the cost of upgrading car park machines, as well as buying new cash-sorting equipment, has topped £60,000.

Some 22 new machines that accept debit and credit card payments have also been bought in the past year, with at least 11 more on the horizon, at a total estimated cost of at least£161,700, though ‘further costs have been and will be occurred’ alongside installation costs, the council said.

It comes as the decision to increase prices was criticised by residents, business leaders, and opposition politicians.

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said: “The surplus generated by Parking Services is reinvested in the maintenance of all car parks, including the equipment within the car parks and for the Civil Enforcement Officers.

“It is also used to help cover public transport, traffic management and road safety costs. This is in line with section 95 of the Traffic Management Act 2004. Such costs during the 2015/16 period when the £3.7m surplus was generated were £5.565m.”

Coun Derek Robertson, Waterloo ward councillor in South Shore, said he was ‘shocked’ to read in The Gazette that prices are to go up next month, and said: “If these increases go ahead, it will force people to park on more side roads and take up valuable space needed for residents.

“I’m stunned to see this happening as, most of the year, Blackpool South car park is empty and can’t be filled up at the present prices. My option would be to reduce the prices so the car park would be full.

“Any business person would tell to reduce the price means more visitors.”

Readers also criticised the hike, with some describing it as ‘another nail in Blackpool’s coffin’, and ‘pure greed’.

One asked what the council is doing with the car park where Devonshire Road Hospital once stood, which is rarely used, if at all, while another called on bosses to introduce a park-and-ride scheme for tourists heading in from the M55.

Jenine Lumb said: “I think residents should get a free parking badge. It’s ridiculous how we pay to have roads built to have to pay to park on them, and the car parks are ridiculously priced already.

“It’s hard for people who work in town to find places to park and a lot of residents don’t bother going because we have to pay.

“If they gave us free parking, you would see a huge rising in people going, especially out of season.”

Victoria Cooper said paying postage for items ordered online to be delivered would now be cheaper than parking, while Owen Houghton said the car parks will still be full come summer because tourists ‘won’t have a clue how much they were last year and want a day out in Blackpool’.

The council made almost £4m from parking in 2015, a figure that has risen steadily in recent years and far outstrips the amount raised by any other Lancashire authority.

Parking operations provide town hall bosses with a stream of income – £3.7m in 2015/16, up from £3m the year before – at a time when budget cuts forced them to make savings of £18.7m and stop cutting grass in the many parts of the town.

But that income is heavily outweighed by the cost of providing public transport and maintaining the resort’s roads and car parks, the council said.

Regeneration, enterprise and economic development boss, Coun Mark Smith, told The Gazette: “Money that comes in from parking is not a profit, but is reinvested in council services like parking and transport, with our parking income being on a par with what is collected in other popular seaside resorts across the country.

“With millions of visitors coming to Blackpool every year, it only natural that more money is collected here than in other parts of Lancashire.

“The money for these new machines has to come from somewhere, and if that is not from slightly raised tariffs, then it would have to come somewhere within the council budget and from services that people value.

“Our experience show people’s parking preferences actually revolve around convenience, something which these new machines will help improve to make our car parks ready for future.” County councillor for nearby Poulton, Alf Clempson, said the town has benefited since a free parking deal was struck between Wyre Council and Booths there in November 2015.

Shoppers can now leave their cars outside the Teanlowe Centre for three hours without cost, and Coun Clempson said yesterday: “There’s no doubt at all it has improved footfall in the town, and that’s good for business.”

However, the free parking has proved to be a bone of contention amongst some however, who worry spaces are being used by people catching the train to Preston or by workers nearby, and not by shoppers spending at local businesses.

There also remains a concern that motorists are now reluctant to pay to park elsewhere in the town, and will instead either park in residential streets or wait for a spot to open up on the Teanlowe car park.

HOW DOES BLACKPOOL COMPARE TO OTHER PLACES IN THE NORTH WEST?

(Based on a stay of up to four hours at council-owned car parks)

1. Manchester (Arndale) £11 if paying on arrival

2. Liverpool (Hanover Street) £10

3. Blackpool (Talbot Road multi-storey) £5, or £5.50 from next month

4. Preston (Avenham) £3.70, or £3.80 from next month

5. Lancaster (St Nicholas Arcades) £3.50

6. Morecambe (Pedder Street) £3.50

7. St Annes (North Promenade) £3.40

8. Lytham (Dicconson Terrace) £3.40

9. Southport (Tulketh Street) £3.20

10. Poulton (Teanlowe) Free for the first three hours

AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER SEASIDE RESORTS?

(Also based on a stay of up to four hours)

1. Brighton (Regency Square) £8

2. Bournemouth (Bath Road South) £8 in the summer, £5 in the winter

3. Blackpool (Talbot Road multi-storey) £5, or £5.50 from next month

4. Tynemouth (Grand Parade) £4.80 (based on flat rate of £1.20 per hour)

5. Scarborough (Falconers Road) £4.60

6. Torquay (Harbour) £4.50

7. Whitstable (Middle Wall) £4.40 (based on flat rate of £1.10 per hour)

8. Hastings (Cornwallis Street) £3.60

9. Llandudno (Victoria Centre) £2.50

10. Tenby (multi-storey) £1.50 in the summer, 60p in the winter