At a council meeting earlier in the month, a leading councillor said Lancaster’s theatres, entertainment venues, restaurants and hospitality businesses needed a car parking system that encouraged, not deterred, visitors.
The proposed new simpler system of tariffs raised worries that theatre and restaurant customers could be deterred, just as theatres, arts venues and restaurants recovered from lockdown.
Despite this car parking fees will now have to be payable 24/7.
In Lancaster, the proposed charges would be £1 for 30 mins, £2 for one hour, £4 for three hours, £9 for nine hours and £12 for 24 hours.
In Morecambe, short-stay three-hour maximum car parks would have options of £2, £3 or £4.
Other Morecambe car park charges would mostly be £1, £2, £4 or £8 for 30 mins, two hours, four hours or 24 hours respectively. Heysham would have £2 or £3 options for two hours or 24 hours.
Over the years a complicated pricing structure has led to 47 individual tariffs, with some car parks catering for short stays and others for those wanting to stay for longer.
This has seen some adjacent car parks operating different pricing structures, leading to confusion from motorists. As part of its budget for 2022/23, the council has agreed to consolidate these tariffs and simplify the structure.
This will mean that for most car parks in Lancaster, motorists will pay the same fee for the same time period. The current separate charge for parking after 6pm will also be removed, with all fees payable 24/7. To support arts and culture organisations, separate arrangements will apply on the upper and lower car parks on St Leonardgate.
The tariff structure will also change in Morecambe, although there will be more options due to the nature of the town’s geography and the reasons someone may be visiting. A three-hour maximum stay in the most popular car parks will ensure a turnover of spaces.
A 30-minute tariff will also be introduced in some car parks for those wanting to pop in for a very quick trip to shops, businesses, and offices.
And for the first time since 2018 there will also be some price increases. Income from parking charges is an important revenue stream which helps the council to pay for its wide range of vital services.
Councillor Gina Dowding, cabinet member with responsibility for planning and place making, said: “This new tariff structure has been developed using best practice in other areas, feedback from car park users and consultation with key stakeholders, including representatives of the cultural and night time economy in the district.
“The city council is focussing on convenience for the users of our car parks and by April 1 the majority will have card payment machines installed. We also want to invest in better infrastructure, such as more EV charging points, and the changes to the tariffs will help to pay for this.
“Parking charges are also an important revenue stream for the council and help to fund the vital services it provides to the community.
“We are also facing a climate emergency and supporting changing people’s travel habits away private car journeys to more sustainable forms of travel, which will help to reduce CO2 emissions and have a positive impact on air quality.”