Businesses react to potential parking changes

Inverurie business owners have hit out at Aberdeenshire Council’s plan to remove free parking from the Burn Lane car park.
Aberdeenshire Council’s plan to remove free parking from the Burn Lane car park have been met with backlash from businesses.Aberdeenshire Council’s plan to remove free parking from the Burn Lane car park have been met with backlash from businesses.
Aberdeenshire Council’s plan to remove free parking from the Burn Lane car park have been met with backlash from businesses.

The proposal is part of the local authority’s upcoming budget considerations that have been created in a bid to fill its £35.45 million financial gap for the year ahead.

If approved, it would mean that any free spaces found within pay and display car parks would become subject to charges.

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The move would not only impact Burn Lane in Inverurie, but also Hanover Street in Fraserburgh, High Street in Turriff and St Mary’s at Banff.

As well as losing out on free parking, the council is also looking at increasing its standard car parking charges by up to 30%.

But what do business owners in Inverurie think about the potential change?

The owner of Inverurie Whisky Shop, Mike Stuart, doesn’t think parking charges would stop people from visiting the town.

But he suggests it would put a halt to people spending quality time in the town centre and its unique shops.

“It won’t stop people coming in but it will stop them browsing. I think they’ll come in, do what they need to do and go,” he explained.

“Inverurie is a town that thrives on hidden gems and places that you might not know, and if you’ve got that time with the free parking to mooch around and have a look you’ll discover that.”

Mike believes the knock-on effect would mean people would be more time aware as they have paid to park for a specific period.

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“The council is taking but what’s the give to encourage people to come into the town centre?”

Should the free parking be removed altogether, the business owner thinks that there would be some backlash, as experienced previously when the council cut the free hour parking period.

Inverurie Whisky Shop’s business development and events manager Annette Leonard claimed the move would “put a hammer” in the town’s independent shops.

She said: “It’s a shame because smaller businesses will probably get a kick in the teeth from it rather than the bigger ones because the bigger ones probably either have their own car parks or like us, we can do online as well.”

Annette admitted she uses the free parking on Burn Lane while she is at work.

But if the council agrees to add charges, she would like to see a permit system introduced for employees of the surrounding businesses.

Annette also raised concerns that taking the free spaces away would lead to motorists parking in places they shouldn’t.

She explained: “You could find that people will just park at the train station, then people won’t be able to park for the train and then that will put them off because they will think ‘I can’t guarantee a space so I’m not going to come and try’.

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“It pushes people to park in places where they shouldn’t be. The streets will be more congested and that will be a pain.

“They’ll just move over to Aldi, Lidl and the garden centre and play the minimum game so all the locals who are trying to get their food shopping won’t get a space.”

Meanwhile John Sorrie of The Green Grocer, located on West High Street, believes the loss of free parking would have a “detrimental” effect on Inverurie businesses.

He said the town already has a shortfall of parking provision and suggests the extra fees would only add to the burden on residents who are struggling with the cost-of-living.

“Adding charges to parking is likely to put them off shopping in the independent shops in the town centre for very little financial gain for the council coffers,” John stated.

“Looking to Aberdeen city centre, one would think the council would want to avoid the same happening to Inverurie but they seem to be following the same path of trying to kill off the high street.

“We, like other small businesses in the town, are trying our best to show that Inverurie is a vibrant town and that small businesses can not only offer better quality but usually better value than supermarkets.”

He added: “Support from the local authority would be appreciated rather than the anti-business actions they seem to be undertaking.”

Aberdeenshire Council will set its budget this Thursday.