Free parking ends on square

Car parking charges have come into force on Ripon Market Square.  (120111M5b)
Car parking charges have come into force on Ripon Market Square. (120111M5b)

Free parking on Ripon’s market square has ended and parking charges have risen as the cash-strapped district council seeks to boost revenues.

Charges were introduced on the market square, and car parks around the city and the rest of the Harrogate district have seen price increases come into force, from Wednesday, January 11 – five months after the proposed increases were first made public.

The one-hour limit is still in place on the northern half of Ripon’s market square, but drivers now face charges of 50p for 30 minutes, or £1 for an hour, to park.

Driver Samantha Taylor, who was using the square for parking on the first day of the new charges, said: “I use this car park quite a lot, and I just wish we’d had more notice.

“I’ve had to send my daughter to the dentist on her own so I had time to pay for parking, and I think they should make the first 30 minutes free.”

Leslie Mellor, visiting Ripon from Leeds, said he thought the council had “gone over the top” by trying to make money out of cars parked in the market square.

Reactions from other motorists varied, with some saying they were happy to pay the 50p parking charge and see money invested in vital services while others said the fee would drive them to use other car parks in the city.

And Ripon City Coun Peter Horton has voiced concerns about the impact the charges might have on the city’s retail trade.

“They couldn’t have chosen a worse time to do this, with the economy in its current state and as we are asking people to pay a little more in parish precept so we can bring a city manager into Ripon,” he said.

“This is bad timing for the economy and for Ripon.”

Prices have risen at four other car parks around the city – Victoria Grove, St Marygate, Marshall Way and The Arcade have seen increases of 10p for the first hour’s parking.

Other changes include the abolishment of free parking on Sundays from 8am - 1pm at St Marygate, Victoria Grove and The Arcade, which had been in place to assist church-goers.

And at Marshall Way car park – which Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) operates on behalf of Booths supermarket – the parking time limit has been increased from two to three hours.

The proposals to change car parking fees and time limits were first announced by HBC in July 2011 when they were met with protests from Ripon City Council members.

In the wake of the objections, Coun Richard Cooper, HBC’s cabinet member for planning, transport and economic development, postponed a final decision until further reports had come through.

But after a consultation period and reports from council officials, HBC announced the revised charges would be in place from January 11.

Ripon city councillors objected to the plans when they were first publicised with concerns that the increases would hurt struggling city centre shops.

Officials from Ripon Cathedral also objected, saying that with no free on-street parking close to the cathedral the charges would hit worshippers in the pocket.

But Ripon’s Chamber of Trade did not object, saying that making drivers pay for parking on the busy market square may help put an end to congestion caused by drivers hunting for spaces.

However, neither of the chamber’s suggestions – that the charges be lower (only 40p per 30 minutes), and for a ‘Free after 3pm’ scheme to encourage shoppers into the city centre – have been introduced.

lWill parking fees on the market square harm retailers in Ripon? Do you think the new charges will bring any advantages, such as easing congestion in the heart of Ripon? Send your views by email to news@ripongazette.co.uk or write to The Editor, Ripon Gazette, 5A Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA.