Drivers won't face a hike in parking charges in South Shields town centre this year - but visitors to the seafront will face higher fees.
South Tyneside Council has included a freeze in parking tariffs in its budget plans for 2019/2020, with extra free parking to be provided in the area.
The changes will come as some welcome news to those who feel parking charges have been at least in part to blame for the decline of the town centre, which has seen dozens of stores close in the past decade.
However, plans to hike charges at the seafront may prove less popular with drivers, who will face a 20% rise in fees after the first hour of parking.
Parking charges will remain the same across the town centre in the next financial year under plans, with visitors still able to park for 1p a minute for the first hour and then 80p per hour after that.
The all-day parking charge will also stay at £3 a day and tickets will continue to be transferable across the town centre’s council-owned car parks.
A number of changes to parking services in the town centre will also come into effect ahead of the summer months. These include:
:: Making the council-owned car park by the old library building, in Prince Georg Square, free seven days a week.
:: The Winchester Street council staff car park will be free to all on Saturdays and Sundays, which council chiefs say complements the hundreds of free parking spaces that are already available across the wider area.
:: The council staff car park in Charlotte Street West will also be made available to members of the public from Monday to Friday (not just on Saturdays and Sundays as it currently stands).
:: Parking charging times will changes, shifting to operate from 8am until 5pm, making it free to park after 5pm in the town centre.
Councillor Nancy Maxwell, lead member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “We know that free parking is an issue that really matters to town centre visitors and businesses, which is why are creating free spaces at the former central library site. We are also introducing free parking on weekends at Winchester Street.
“Elsewhere in the town centre, we are freezing charges. This means that town centre charges have not increased since 2010 and remain among the lowest fees in Tyne and Wear, with a penny-a-minute rate for the first hour.”
Free parking in the town centre area is already available at The Customs House, The Word (for up to three hours), Ocean Road, St Hilda’s at Crossgate, River Drive and Mile End Road.
Parking will remain free in Jarrow and Hebburn town centres as well as The Nook shopping parade.
However, the council is planning to hike up fees at South Shields seafront.
Visitors will continue to be able to park for 1p a minute for the first hour, but the charge then £1 per hour thereafter – a 20p rise on the current rate.
The all day parking charge across seafront car parks will also increase to £5 per day all year round and the car park operational hours will run for an additional hour with the new times of 8am to 8pm.
Council chiefs stressed it was the first rise in a decade, and that tickets will remain transferable across the car parks.
Regular visitors to South Shields seafront will also be able to get unlimited use of the area’s nine seafront car parks and on street parking areas with an annual foreshore pass for £100.
Councillor Maxwell said this is the equivalent of 20 all-day visits at only £2 per week.
She added: “We believe that the cost to park at our stunning seafront area continues to offer excellent value for money compared to neighbouring coastal areas. Money generated from parking charges goes back into highways and road safety as well as the maintenance, improvement and security of council owned car parks.
“Though charges have remained the same over the past ten years, it is important to note that the council has lost almost 40 per cent of its real spending power over the last nine years and is in the top three councils hardest hit by austerity measures.
“This has meant we have had to make some difficult decisions to help protect and prioritise our services, including asking some people to pay a little more for the services that they use. These changes ensure parking charges are proportionate to current maintenance and operating costs while helping towards the financial challenges faced by the council.”
For further information about parking in South Tyneside visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/parking