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Charges return to Elgin town centre car parks

By Sarah Rollo

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CAR parking charges in central Elgin will be reintroduced later this month.

Councillors agreed to the move, which will come into force on October 26, following an hour-long debate this morning.

During the talks it was agreed parking will be 'Free After 3' at the St Giles Centre multi-storey car park from the same date, running until January 2.

And a new app enabling people to pay for parking by smart phone is being brought in – in line with more than half of Scotland's local authorities.

It will provide a touch-free option for motorists to pay for parking and follows Scottish Government guidance for contactless payments to be used where possible.

Parking charges in central Elgin will come back into force on October 26. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Parking charges in central Elgin will come back into force on October 26. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Charging in the authority's 15 pay and display car parks in Elgin Town Centre was suspended at the end of March due to the Covid-19 outbreak. That came at a cost to the council's finances, with car parks generating £442,000 net income for the local authority last year.

The suspension was welcomed by local businesses and shoppers, with plans to reintroduce charges in August pushed back to encourage footfall.

Elgin Business Improvement District (BID) had urged the council to again delay the move to give businesses more time to recover.

However, councillors told this morning's meeting complaints had also been lodged by shoppers unable to find spaces in Elgin's car parks due to a surge in all-day parking.

The committee chairman, Councillor Graham Leadbitter (Elgin South, SNP), said it was his genuine belief free parking was now having a detrimental impact on footfall – with some of those unable to find a central parking space taking their custom elsewhere.

Councillor Tim Eagle (Buckie, Conservative) suggested charges could be reintroduced, but with a free two-hour period for all motorists.

That idea stalled when the economic growth, housing and environmental sustainability committee heard it would take at least two months for ticket machines to be reprogrammed.

In the end, Cllr Leadbitter's motion for charging to be reintroduced, but for the Free After 3 scheme to be brought in sooner-than-planned, was unopposed.

Now in its sixth year, the initiative is usually reserved for the Christmas period, but will now run from October 26 instead of the proposed later date of December 5.

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