It was reported that correspondence had been received from Belfast City Centre Management Company (BCCM) which outlined a proposal to discount charges in Council run off-street car parks in the lead up to Christmas.
The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that officers had consulted with various stakeholders to gauge the levels of support for reducing off-street parking levies. The feedback was summarised as follows:
· The private sector would not be introducing additional parking discounts as they were down on income already this year. They pointed out that discounts typically led to congestion issues and they were not in favour of off-street car park charges being discounted;
· A DfI Ministerial decision was required in relation to on-street car parking changes, although officials indicated that they were not supportive of the proposal due to previous congestion issues. DfI had also removed substantial numbers of on-street spaces to date to accommodate safe distancing and promoted active and sustainable travel. However, there were ongoing discussions between DfI, the Council and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce to discuss the ‘red barriers’ and the cordoned off on-street car parking;
· Views expressed on behalf of businesses indicated that they were not supportive of discounting public parking due to congestion issues and the potential impact on private MSCP operators;
· Previously, free parking on Council car parks had led to congestion, circulating traffic etc. and was therefore not subsequently encouraged. Council car parks were typically cheaper per hour and had historically attracted all-day parkers, although this user was likely to have changed; and
· Translink normally introduced fare incentives to promote public transport at Christmas, however, it didn’t look like this would be financially supported this year, although they were more supportive of promotion of public transport than supplemented car parking proposals.
The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that, based on the engagement carried out to date, the discounting of the Council’s off-street car parking facilities could be counter-intuitive at this time and could have a negative impact on the public transportation provision, the private-sector car-parking provision and potentially lead to additional congestion and connectivity issues.
However, she highlighted that city centre accessibility was a key priority going forward in terms of encouraging people to use the city centre and, to that end, it was proposed that a joined up approach be agreed for the New Year, in conjunction with DfI, Translink, the Council, city centre businesses, the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, BIDs and BCCM. This would also include consultation with the City Reopening External Stakeholder Group and private car park operators to better understand the need, demand and impacts of reviewing the pricing structure for Council operated off-street car parking for 2021.
During discussion, a Member highlighted that he had liaised with some businesses which concurred with the position as outlined in the report. A further Member requested that a Review of the Car Parking Strategy be considered as part of the Committee’s Work Programme for 2021/22.
After discussion, the Committee:
1) Noted the request from Belfast City Centre Management for discounted parking charges at council car parks, and agreed to decline the request at this time, based on the feedback and information provided within the report;
2) Recognised that city centre accessibility was a key priority going forward in terms of encouraging people to use the city centre, and to that end, agreed to a joined up approach for the New Year, in conjunction with DfI, Translink, the Council, city centre businesses, Belfast Chamber, BIDs and BCCM; and
3) Agreed, in accordance with Standing Order 47 (a) (2) (c), that the aforementioned decisions would not be subject to call-in, on the basis that an unreasonable delay could be prejudicial to the Council’s or the public’s interest.