A main street in Kent would get a much-needed boost if residents were offered a 20% discount on parking, council members say.
Lib Dem Mike Sole has developed plans for the cost-saving system to be put in place for locals using spaces in one of Canterbury City Council’s ANPR car parks.
Scroll down to participate in our poll
He believes the move could persuade people to switch shopping at Westwood Cross to Whitefriars – with any budget deficits offset by pumping up visitor numbers.
“Because the tariffs are high in the city center, it discourages locals from entering,” said Cllr Sole.
“I think 20% is a reasonable amount. It’s not a huge discount, but it’s enough to make it worthwhile.
“I do not think the municipality needs to lose any money.
“If it meant that they had to add 5p extra per hour on foreign fees, so be it. The foreign tariff would bear the cost of it.”
Cllr Sole presented a motion at a council meeting last week that the system should be introduced next April.
The proposed reduced rate would give residents a discount of up to four hours in any of the authority’s car parks that have been installed with registration plate recognition cameras.
It’s back by fellow Lib Dem Cllr Alex Ricketts.
He urged former colleagues to launch such a system after suggesting that the authority should only “screw out some money from tourists”.
Cllr Sole added: “A big advantage of Canterbury is the ANPR system – it would be very easy for residents to register a car and then automatically get a discounted parking fee.
“Residents would really appreciate it, and it might even encourage them to stay in the center longer.”
Canterbury market stallion holder Jeb Hughes claims he has lost many customers in recent months because they have chosen to shop at places like Ashford’s Designer Outlet, where parking costs £ 1 for four hours.
The trader believes that resident discounts would help stem the tide.
He said: “A customer told me she would no longer come into town because Ashford is cheaper.
“This is what I discover happens quite a lot with my customers.”
Mark Pegg, business manager at The Brogue Trader in Burgate, also believes the proposals would help trade.
He says reduced prices would increase the number of shoppers traveling into the area from Whitstable, Herne Bay and the surrounding villages.
“It would definitely have a positive impact because some of our regular trade comes from the more affluent coastal areas,” Pegg explained.
“In recent weeks, we have had a return of the tourist trade, but we do not see as much of the local customer.
“I think prices are discouraging more people in the local area.”
This comes after prices were raised to £ 3.20 in the city’s most popular car parks, Watling Street and Queningate, in April. They will rise by another 30p in 12 months.
Prices elsewhere in Canterbury – such as Pound Lane, St Radigunds and Riverside – were raised to £ 2.50, while charges on Station Road West and Castle Street were frozen on several floors.
Heads of government stress that the extra revenue from parking – which accounts for more than 25% of its revenue – will help cover its £ 5 million deficit.
And council leader Ben Fitter-Harding (Con) says changes like those put forward by Cllr Sole would get residents to get a bigger tax bill.
“The council’s tax covers almost only the cost of garbage collection, so Cllr Sole will need to consider whether he will ask residents to pay more municipal taxes in exchange for cheaper parking,” the Tory chief added.
“A lower parking fee for residents is a long-held ambition for the conservatives in the municipal council.
“But we have already done so.
“Those who park in Canterbury can get a huge 36% discount by going to places like Station Road West and Castle Street on several floors.
“Visitors from outside the district tend to go directly to expensive car parks such as Watling Street and Queningate – but knowledgeable locals know they can get really good prices in a few minutes’ walk.”