Juliette Bains: Parking gets me in a spin as Christmas fever takes hold

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This week, there’s something I simply have to get off my chest.

My usual moaning, expletive-ridden texts to friends will just not suffice in these circumstances.

No. What I need is a fiery, anger-fuelled, keyboard-bashing rant.

So, here it goes.

Since the council introduced evening and weekend parking charges in Leeds city centre, my anger has gone from calmly understated to out of control.

This resulted in me shouting profanities at an unsuspecting car park ticket machine the other week, which I’m not exactly proud of.

The fury unfolded after I bravely started the daunting task of Christmas shopping.

If battling through the late night crowds and elbowing my way around the shops for a couple of hours just to splash my hard-earned cash on gifts for other people wasn’t enough torture, I then had to cough up over £10 for the honour.

I pity the poor ticket machine that felt my wrath that day, but with arms full of bags and my patience exhausted, it was inevitable.

Granted, it’s been about a year since the free parking was cruelly taken away, but it seems like only yesterday that I used to nip into town after 6pm and feel carefree as I basked in the knowledge that it wouldn’t cost me an extra penny to park.

It was a simpler time.

But now it’s a much different story, and it’s only recently that I’ve started to realise the domino effect it’s had.

Take my gym membership, for example.

Now, I didn’t need much of an excuse, but having to pay just to park at the gym, let alone be in one, was reason enough for me to cancel my contract.

The handy free spaces next to Kirkgate Market were taken away just as work started on the Victoria Gate development.

I’ve always hailed the scheme as a major coup for Leeds and I stand by that.

But I would argue that those few free places that it affected should have been replaced elsewhere, rather than it sparking a blanket ban on free city centre parking.

Recently, though, I thought I’d found a fairly cheap alternative, with the Trinity Leeds car park at Swinegate (opposite Bibis) priced at £2 all night after 5pm.

OK it’s not free, but it’s not as extortionate as other car parks, plus it’s well lit and you don’t take your life into your own hands when you walk back to your car.

But to my frustration I found out that they’ve now hiked up their prices to £3 – probably to make a few more quid over the Christmas period.

That really was the final nail in the coffin for me when it comes to city centre shopping.

It may sound stingy to some that I seem to be squabbling over a few quid here, but it all adds up.

And I think I’m perfectly within my right to feel annoyed that what was once an appreciated privilege was suddenly swiped away.

There are shops and restaurants that have lost out on my trade, and I will now be taking my business to the White Rose Centre, where parking is free all year round.

I wonder whether all of this has had an effect on visitor numbers to the city centre, although I imagine it would be hard to tell, what with Trinity Leeds bringing more people in to outweigh the likes of us disgruntled drivers.

I’m not the only one that thinks this either, as nearly 70 per cent of you agree that the council made the wrong decision to charge for weekend and evening parking in the city centre, according to the recent YEP’s Voice of Leeds 2014 Survey.

There just doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for car park price hikes, and I fear it’s a problem that will continue to drive me round the bend.

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