Leeds city council has come under fire for its plans to charge for evening and weekend parking in the city centre, as well as a proposal to introduce paid-for residents’ parking permits across the city. But is the authority really being unfair on already hard-pressed motorists? Aisha Iqbal reports.
Leeds city centre has, at last count, 18,890 car parking spaces.
Of these, 2,407 are on street and 16,483 off street. In total, there are 13,822 long stay spaces on street and off street, and 5,068 short and medium stay spaces.
Leeds City Council controls just 30 percent of the city centre’s car parking spaces. The rest are all privately managed, with some charging eye-watering rates.
And yet the authority has drawn heavy criticism for trying to push through two new parking-charge policies designed to claw back cash in the wake of budget pressures.
Its controversial plans to charge residents for parking outside their homes could already have hit the buffers, after campaigners in London won a landmark High Court judgement which ruled it illegal for one particular cash-strapped council to hike parking charges as a general revenue-raiser.
The Barnet ruling, which essentially means any money raised from parking charges will have to be ringfenced, is now being used as a barometer by other authorities and Leeds bosses admit they will be taking it into account in their final decision.
The council has also given initial approval to introducing Sunday and evening parking charges in its city centre car parks and on-street spaces, and official traffic management orders have now been displayed on lamp-posts throughout the city centre, awaiting further public feedback.
The YEP reported earlier this year that car parking charges have contributed almost £26 million to Leeds’s council coffers over the last five years at 18 managed car parks.
However much of th council-run car parking in Leeds is actually still cheaper than paying to park in a privately run facility.
There is no standard charge for council-run spaces, and costs vary across the various zones.
The South Outer zone, covering areas like Holbeck Lane, offers 10 hours parking for just £2.20. Bowman Lane charges £5 for the same amount of time.
Central Leeds short stay parking is more expensive, with charges varying from £1 for 20 minutes, to £4.90 for two hours.
The YEP conducted a straw poll of some of the cheapest and most expensive places to park in the city centre (see ‘Your Comments’ below). Mall car parks like The Light and St John’s Centre were pointed out as having some of the highest charges for short stays.
At the Leeds Met Rose Bowl car park, meanwhile, anyone parking for more than five hours has to pay a standard £25 charge, although the rates are staggered much more cheaply below five hours. In comparison, 12 hours at the council-run Woodhouse Lane multi-storey is just £5.
If the council’s new Sunday and evening charges are pushed through, motorists will be charged £1 for up to four hours on Sunday, or £4 all day between 10am and 6pm, and £2 on evenings until 10pm.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s development and economy boss, admits any talk of putting up car parking charges in understandably unpopular. But he insists the council is not picking on motorists.
“The motorist does often feel put upon,” he said. “But then motoring costs are a big chunk out of everyone’s income. Current costs [of driving a car] might be thousands a year, so us saying £50 for residents’ parking permits is not a big amount. But people say ‘well I know I have to pay all that, but I don’t want to pay this’.”
“People do have this perception that there is a legal right to park outside their home, which there isn’t,” he adds of the residents’ parking proposals. “To me, it raises issues that go beyond parking. We have this obsession that roads are there solely for cars either to be parked on or to drive fast down. Resident parking areas have probably sent a clear message about how you can transform an area. And I find that more interesting. It’s part of a bigger picture of what kind of place we want our city to be.”
Asked why motorists feel picked on, he insists the council is “not here to hammer car users” and stresses that its charges are still lighter on motorists than private car parks.
“When you are talking about us charging in the city centre on Sundays, a lot of the private ones charge anyway, they probably all do. People pay there, but expect us to do it for nothing. People will geton to us about parking because they feel that is the one cost in motoring that they have some control over, because you have no control over your insurance costs, and we know we are all being ripped off there.”
He insists council policy makers have considered the wider economic impact of any changes, and it’s not just about “racking up charges” as an easy revenue-maker.
Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy at the AA, said there could be no denying that increasing parking charges is “all about revenue”.
“Local authorities are under increasing pressure with their budgets,” he said. “Parking is the only thing, that is like a tax, that they can manipulate to bring in money.
“We have got 28.5 million cars in the country. Cities like Leeds are busy places and there is development going on and that puts pressure on parking. The council need to set out their case in a transparent way, although it will still be unpalatable to motorists, and they have to think about the vitality of the city centre and about traders.”
COUNCIL FEES BY ZONE
North and West (incl Castle Street, Lisbon St, Westgate): £1.70 for one hour, £4.30 up to five
Central Short stay (max two hours): £1 for 20 minutes, £1.80 for 40 mins, £2.60 for one hour, £4.90 for two
South Central (incl Argyle Road, Globe Road, Mabgate): £1 for two hours, £1.80 for four, £2.60 for six, £2.20 for 10
Leylands (incl Bridge Street, Gower Street, North Street): £1.20 for two hours, £1.80 for four, £3.20 for six, £4.20 for eight, £4.80 for 10
Bowman Lane (incl Water Lane East, Waterloo Street): £1 for two hours, £2 for four, £5 for 10 hours
These charges are for weekdays, and can vary on Saturdays for some zones
The Markets: £1 for 30 mins, £1.70 for one hour, £5 for three hours.
Civic Hall D: £1 for 30 mins, £1.40 for one hour, £4.20 for three
Meadow Lane and Hunslet Lane: £3.20 for two hours, £7.80 for over eight
West Street and Former International Pool: £1 for half an hour, £1.50 one hour, £7.20 over five
Maude Street: £3.50 for two hours
Quarry Hill: £1.60 for one hour
Woodhouse Lane: £5 for up to 12 hours
Burley Road: £1.30 for two hours
Otley: 40p per hour, max 10 hours
Beckett Street: £1 an hour, max four hours
Sovereign St/Queens Hall CP: £2 for one hour, £4 for two hours, £9 for eight hours, £10 for over eight hours
Charges are in force all day, Saturday rates may vary.