Free parking fails to lure shoppers into Aberdeen city centre

A free evening parking scheme could be abandoned after it was found to have no impact on attracting more people into the city.

The free parking scheme was designed to encourage more footfall in Aberdeen city centre
The free parking scheme was designed to encourage more footfall in Aberdeen city centre

The brakes may be put on the much-lauded Alive After Five scheme after the results of the pilot showed the number of people in Aberdeen city centre was lower between October and December 2018 compared to the previous year.

Council bosses had hoped the scheme, which launched last October, would encourage more people into the city centre in the evenings, after drawing inspiration from a similar initiative in Newcastle.

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The scheme offered free parking from 5-8pm at Chapel Street, Denburn, Frederick Street, West North Street and Marischal College council-run car parks.

A report, which will be presented to councillors next Thursday, said the data fails to demonstrate the initiative had “any impact” on increasing the footfall in the city centre.

Meanwhile, data from Bon Accord and St Nicholas shopping centres, who also took part in the scheme, said their average occupancy did “not significantly alter”.

The proposal to abandon the scheme has been slammed by the SNP opposition who said more time was needed to see results.

Jackie Dunbar, the SNP’s operations spokeswoman, said: “The administration removed the scheme from their budget on Tuesday, so it’s clear the Alive After Five scheme has already been stopped dead in its tracks by the Tories. Given Councillor Lumsden previously referred to this as a key measure of support for city centre businesses, you would have thought he would have allowed the scheme more time to succeed as it has in other cities.

“However, you only have to look at the cuts to VisitAberdeenshire to see that getting people to the city and spending money here is not a priority for the Tories.”

But John Wheeler, convener of Aberdeen City Council’s operational delivery committee, said the figures “speak for themselves”.

The Conservative councillor added: “We obviously trialled it and officers have come back with recommendations based on the data obtained that it has not really been successful.”

Councillors have been asked to agree the council continue to look at whether there are “appropriate means” of supporting the strategy through working with local transport providers and Aberdeen Inspired.