Major parking changes coming to Preston city centre - including a hike in pay and display fees and the introduction of Sunday charging

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A raft of changes to on-street parking arrangements in and around Preston city centre will see the number of pay and display spaces increased - along with the fees to use them.

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has approved the measures, which include the extension of roadside pay and display charging to Sundays, which are currently free.

An extra 30 metered spaces will be created at the kerbside, while more than 150 new residential permit parking spots will also be introduced.

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A report presented to cabinet members states that the overhaul has been designed to “ensure there is a regular turnover of parking spaces to enable residents, shoppers, visitors and workers [to] access to the city”.

County Hall has approved to big changes to the on-street parking arrangements in Preston city centreCounty Hall has approved to big changes to the on-street parking arrangements in Preston city centre
County Hall has approved to big changes to the on-street parking arrangements in Preston city centre

The higher tariffs and introduction of Sunday charging will mean that on-street fees are higher than those at off-street car parks - with the intention being to encourage visitors to the city to use the latter.

None of Preston’s off-street parking facilities - neither those at the bus station and just off Bow Lane, which are operated by the county council, nor the remainder that are run by Preston City Council or private companies - will be subject to the changes.

The increased charges, which will also apply to roadside pay and display parking in Lancaster, were not broken down at the cabinet meeting where they were given the go-ahead. However, the Lancashire Post has been told that the half-hour rate at current and newly-created on-street pay and display spaces will increase from 80p to £1, while the fee for a one-hour stay will go from £1.50 to £2.

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Following consultations into its proposals carried out earlier this year, County Hall has also decided to introduce a two-hour on-street parking option at a charge of £3.50.

The tariffs will apply seven days a week in Preston from 8am to 6pm and drivers will not be permitted to return to a space within two hours of leaving it.

The proposals attracted 87 responses - along with two petitions - with various objections being raised in relation to the changes in status of individual spaces.

However, one of the most controversial aspects of the package of measures was the introduction of Sunday charging in the vicinity of St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church on Chapel Street. It was claimed that the move could reduce the size of the congregation and disproportionately disadvantage the elderly and those with limited mobility and financial means.

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There was particular concern about the one-hour time limit on spaces that was initially proposed, with consultation respondents noting that this would not be sufficient even just to attend Mass - let alone any events afterwards.

In response, County Hall revised its proposals to introduce a two-hour stay across the board for its on-street pay and display facilities, but was not persuaded to amend the time periods on a Sunday when charging would apply near St. Wilfred’s in order to exempt Mass times.

The report to cabinet conceded that while the charges “will have a detrimental impact for some people who attend St Wilfrid's Church and some local residents who may be within the older people 'protected characteristics' group, it is felt that the overall benefits of the proposal to reduce longer stay parking in the area will be of benefit to a wider range of people including…Blue Badge holders”.

Lead member for highways and transport, County Cllr Scott Smith, said that residents and other groups had “engaged extensively with the consultation and, in turn, [council] officers have done the same”.

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The authority said that the conversion in and around the city centre of large town houses and former public buildings into residential flats meant that it had also become necessary to “redefine” eligible addresses for permits in order to “manage the increasing pressure on available permit spaces and avoid the resident permit schemes being overwhelmed”.

Exact city centre address points will now be identified for permit eligibility rather than a blanket “all properties” definition across broader areas - thus preventing new developments from automatically being entitled to permit parking.

In a statement issued about the overall suite of parking changes, County Cllr Smith said: "There is always more demand to park on-street than the number of spaces available in busy city centres, which is why we have to regulate parking to ensure safety and balance the needs of everyone who wants to park.

"Over recent months we've been consulting on proposed changes to parking in Preston in response to the way areas of the city have evolved over a number of years and demand for parking has changed as a result.

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"The key factors are that some properties have been converted to flats, which has increased the demand on existing residential parking schemes, while some new businesses have opened, and others have closed, or become residential properties.

"Meanwhile demand for short-term parking on-street from people wanting to visit Preston city centre is as high as ever.

"There will never be a perfect solution to balancing the demands for on-street parking, however these plans aim to improve on what we have at the moment, and make as many spaces available as possible while ensuring safety.

"On-street parking always has some impact on the movement of traffic and, as such, we work on the principle that people should be encouraged to use off-street car parks as their first preference. Our plans to tweak pay and display prices in Preston and Lancaster - and to operate Preston's pay and display scheme seven days a week - will ensure our parking offer across both cities is consistent and balanced.

"I'm grateful to everyone who has responded to the various consultations to help us to make these proposals work for everyone."