Car parking strategy
Car park strategy priorities
This strategy seeks to identify the short term 1 to 2 years actions, the medium term 3 to 5 year actions and the longer term 5 to 10 year actions. There will be some projects that overlap these time frames and some dependencies between actions.
Priority 1: to provide good quality car parks
Fundamentally car parks are assets that need to be maintained. They are often the first point of contact for visitors to the town and influence future visits. Visitors expect a good standard, well maintained and clean facility. We also have a duty to provide safe car parks where the car park does not cause accidents and injury to the users.
Our main multi-storey car park is the Midway. This provides considerable parking for many town centre users. However, this car park is now at a stage where it needs to be reviewed. The design, age, construction and location of the car park brings many challenges and significant resources need to be invested to ensure this car park is of a good quality for future years.
- implement regular inspections of all car parks to enable prompt reporting of defects
- commit to a responsive maintenance programme funded through the revenue budget
- establish provision in the capital programme for larger investments with initial priorities being resurfacing of Hassall Street car park, rear of High Street car park and Frog Hall access road
- to minimise the costs of the operation of the car parks we will seek to undertake a review of the business rates and take any appropriate action
- establish a strategy for the Midway car park - our largest and the most significant town centre car park, which requires significant renovation including cathodic protection for the long term structure of the building, new drainage, internal decoration, lighting and improved cleanliness
- review development options for the least used and least economically viable car parks
- deliver a rolling programme of refurbishment
Priority 2: to improve the customer experience of parking in Newcastle
We are committed to working on a range of issues to improve customer experience. Many of our pay and display machines are beyond their life expectancy and lack the software to provide accurate management information on parking patterns and behaviours. Similarly, the current machines are cash only with no option to pay by card in the car parks, albeit that the pay by phone is available. Greater use of smart phones has also seen the development of more streamlined phone apps that are customer friendly. We are committed to ensuring that a modern customer friendly app is implemented for Newcastle.
- commence programme of pay and display machine replacement, with chip and pin and/or contactless options (consultation highlighted that in terms of card payment businesses preferred contactless payment whereas customers preferred chip and pin)
- procure modern pay by phone service with app technology
- actively promote cashless payment method
- continue to offer free parking to Blue Badge holders
- ensure proportionate and effective parking enforcement, to balance the need to enforce with appropriate flexibility
- invest in a modern CCTV in the Midway which is able to meet the expected monitoring and surveillance requirements
- support the county council's implementation of the new street signing as part of the wayfinding strategy
- as the ticket machine upgrade programme rolls out over the next 5 years we will review take up of the two card payment mechanisms and future years will focus on the most popular payment methods
- in response to the business and customer consultation review the provision of Disabled and parent parking
- over the next 10 years there is also likely to be further enhancements in payment methods and we will need to review developments as they arise
Priority 3: to support the economic development of Newcastle town centre
Car parking is understood to be a key issue for the town centre both with businesses and customers and it is essential that we are able to use the car parks as assets to best support the town centre. As outlined in the earlier sections the car parks have significant costs that need to be met and our policy is to do this through charging in Newcastle town centre.
Availability of parking is not an issue with many car parks having low utilisation rates. We have already made the decision to dispose of the Blackfriars car park based upon low usage and the opportunity to support redevelopment of a wider site. Consideration over the next few years can be given to the longer term use of some of the other under-utilised car parks as to if they could be promoted for long stay permits or redeveloped.
The new ticket machines will provide valuable intelligence that can inform future years' car parking charges. We set charges annually as part of the budget setting fees and charges. We are committed to reviewing car parking fees as part of this process. One of the key issues arising from this strategy development is to have a simple understandable charging policy that takes into account best practice from other areas. We will look at two key approaches:
- supporting town centre visitors including residents
- supporting businesses/workers in the town centre
We will seek to implement additional concessions on the understanding that there is commitment from the local businesses to share trading data, thus ensuring that our investment results in improved local business trade. Our parking charges have not been increased in over 8 years.
Our research shows that the majority of shoppers visiting Newcastle park for under 2 hours. Of critical importance is increasing the number of people who visit the town. It is recognised that parking charges, and ease of parking, are important influencers. However, at least as important is the town's 'offer', and alongside this strategy for parking, action will be required to develop and improve the offer. This will form part of our development of a town centre strategy.
- trial a shoppers discount of £1 after 1:00 p.m. for 8 months, this will be reviewed for the financial implications
- establish business engagement programme to promote discounted parking
- establish a mechanism to evaluate the business impact of the '1 after 1' initiative
- work with businesses including the business improvement district (BID) to develop the town centre offer
- offer free parking for 5 event days per year where there is a clear business engagement plan to demonstrate economic impact
- support Christmas retail and town centre shoppers in the run up to Christmas with free parking from 5:00 p.m. for Christmas late night shopping
- work with Staffordshire County Council to review charges for on-street and off street on Corporation Street and Merrial Street (Staffordshire County Council operated Bridge Street)
- evaluate potential for a shoppers permit for residents
- explore with BID willingness for it to control charging in Goose Street as a dedicated 'shoppers car park'
- evaluate the impact of any clean air actions on car park charging
- establish a mechanism for differential charging to reward the greenest vehicles
£1 after 1:00 p.m.
In December 2018, we introduced the £1 after 3:00 p.m. concession to support the town centre, with many businesses being quieter late afternoon, and to support the evening economy. Using the data from cashless ticket sales for the 6 months following the introduction of the new charge, we have been able to estimate that this concession potentially results in a loss of income of £84,000 over a 12 month period.
By introducing this concession from 1:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m., the annual cost would increase to £95,000, an additional £11,000 in addition to the current 3:00 p.m. cost. The calculation for this figure has had to rely solely on the data provided via the cashless sales during 2018-19. Therefore, there may be purchase habits by those individuals who use the cashless service that cannot be forecast. For example, those using the cashless service could be commuters who park in the morning for the day and therefore may not be used as much during the afternoon.
Businesses require parking for employees at rates which reflect their long stay, frequent use. This includes not only commercial businesses in the town, but also ourselves, Staffordshire County Council, and the NHS, all of which have large numbers of individuals parking in the town. Long-term commuter parking needs to be provided such that it does not squeeze out shorter stay shopper parking, but equally, it is recognised that commuters also contribute to the economic vitality of the town and should not therefore be exclusively relocated to the margins.
- to prioritise and market Fogg Street, High Street and Well Street as business permit car parks for adjacent businesses
- to support business owners and workers in the town centre we will simplify the quarterly permit scheme based on £2 per day for all-day parking. This equates to £130 (excluding VAT) per quarter. This one permit will replace all existing permit bands, with the only variation being a £20 discount for those businesses that purchase more than 20 permits (£110/quarter). Based on the income currently generated by the existing permits, this simplified charging scheme will achieve the same level of income as the current scheme
- a provision will be introduced for a small business permit which allows businesses to purchase the £130 permit on a monthly scheme, at £43.50/month. The aim of this payment option is to make the permit system more approachable to smaller business owners
- to implement a marketing programme to increase the take-up of business permits
- maintain ongoing dialogue with the business community to ensure understanding of their business parking needs remains current
- maintain a programme of specialist events on car parks to encourage visitors to the town and to maximise the utilisation of the asset
- evaluate the opportunities for the car parks to support diversification and specialist events
- continue to work with the business improvement district (BID) to ensure that parking supports local trade
- evaluate the take up of permits and technological developments to improve the purchase of permits
We provide a permit scheme for regular users of our car parks. There are three bands of permit, ranging from £150 to £230 per quarter (plus VAT). During 2018-19, £176,000 was generated through the permit scheme, this related to 1,587 permits being issued. Of these, 1,184 were purchased by large organisations and a discounted rate was applied.
The current permit scheme is unnecessarily complex, with various pricing points due to the three bandings and any discount that is applied. It is anticipated that the scheme can become more attractive to new users with the introduction of a single permit charge across all the car parks we own.
By introducing a single permit charge of £130 (plus VAT), marketed as a £2 per day charge, with a £20 discount for those businesses that purchase more than 20 permits, we would generate £183,000 based on 2018-19's purchases.
Goose Street Car Park proposal
To assist in improving footfall in the town centre, we are proposing that the setting of charges can be made by the BID. In return, the BID would be required to make up our shortfall on the car parking income from the BID levy. Expenditure that currently takes place would remain our responsibility, and this includes the enforcement of the car park by our officers.
We would propose that the car park that would be offered to the BID would be Goose Street. This car park's location is close to the town centre, would increase footfall through the side of town that requires an increase, and it currently does not attract as much income as our main car park. Therefore, it would cost the BID less to set the charges for it. However, with over 100 spaces, this car park provides a genuine opportunity to support trade.
The income required by us off the site is £74,000. If the BID were to make the car park free, the initiative would cost the BID £74,000. If the BID were to charge a reduced fee, the cost to the BID would be less (£74,000 less the income collected). The proposal has been informally presented to the BID for their consideration of the development of their new business plan and for businesses to consider as part of their plans for 2020-25.
Details such as maximum stay duration would be negotiated with the BID to manage the impact on other parking income.
Priority 4: to ensure that car parks meet the future demands of car users
Technology will develop greatly over the next 10 years and it is important that we review and adapt to these developments. In-car technology is already developing the capability of paying for car parking through accounts linked to the car, thus the driver will automatically pay for the time they park to the time they leave.
In March 2019, the Department for Transport published their 'future of mobility urban strategy - moving Britain ahead'. It stated that:
"UK company Appy Parking is introducing smart, parking schemes across several towns and cities, helping to reduce driver stress, congestion and emissions generated while looking for parking spaces by navigating drivers directly to available bays."
The Department for Transport Strategy recognised that the development of smart, intelligent parking is underpinned by the accurate collation, sharing and harnessing of data. We will review progress in this arena to ascertain what future technology may be suitable in future years.
The growth of electric vehicles over the next 5 years will be important and we will need to think about ways to support the use of electric vehicles by providing adequate numbers of charging points. Our requirement under the ministerial directive to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air will be supported by the delivery of electric charging points for taxis. Similarly, we will need to consider charging for our own fleet, specifically the fleet based at the depot.
Whilst the current legislation does not permit automated vehicles (driverless cars) on the highway, the technology has been in development for many years. Over the life of this 10-year strategy it will no doubt become reality. As the sector develops, we will need to consider the implications for our car parking approach.
- implement electric charging points for taxis as part of the clean air projects
- research demand for electrical charging points and establish funding model
- review parking bay sizes to accommodate larger vehicles
review the technology developments for directed parking apps
- provide electrical charging points in all the car parks we own
- review in-car charging technology and the links to parking accounts
- introduce solar canopies in the car parks in line with our carbon emission reduction commitments
- review the implications of automated vehicles