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Should Dundee Council bosses ‘loosen up’ and use cheaper parking to drive city centre revival?

Business owners believe cheaper parking could bring more customers into the city centre - but what about the effect on the environment and council coffers?

Director of Black Mamba Lauren Runciman on Perth Road.
Director of Black Mamba Lauren Runciman on Perth Road. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Motorists venturing into Dundee have been facing higher parking charges at several sites from the start of this month.

This includes an inner city centre price rise for visitors to the area, including business owners, employees and customers.

The higher charges are part of the council’s efforts to plug a £20 million gap in its budget.

But do the changes run the risk of hurting Dundee city centre businesses?

From April 1, parking fees increased by 20p for 0-30 mins and 30 mins-1 hour respectively in the area within the A991 Inner Ring Road.

This is in addition to a ban on pavement parking that came into force on February 26.

However, fees have been frozen in the outer city centre.

The freeze excludes specific car parking rises at sites such as Perth Road and Yeoman Shore though.

Some businesses are also concerned about the Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which will become legally enforceable from May 30.

This comes as businesses still deal with the impacts of Covid-19, inflation and the move towards online shopping.

But could slashing car park fees in Dundee help the city centre’s revival?

How do Dundee city centre businesses feel about current parking costs?

The Black Mamba restaurant in the Nethergate and The Giddy Goose restaurant on Perth Road are two key city businesses.

Lauren Runciman, 27, is the co-owner of both venues and suggests they would see the benefit of cheaper fees for drivers.

“Something that we find right now there is a big tightening on parking”, she says.

“You have to pay to park everywhere.”

Lauren Runciman, Director of Black Mamba.
Lauren Runciman, Director of Black Mamba. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“Parking attendants have their place in terms of people parking on double yellows or parking dangerously, things like that.

“But especially at the moment, parking attendants are very quick to give you a ticket straightaway even if you are just a minute over your stay.

“I do think that if the council were to potentially loosen up a little bit in terms of people parking, or maybe even offering free parking, it would allow more people to come.

“They’d be able to park at a car park for free and to enjoy walking along the High Street.”

‘If parking was free it would encourage more people to come out’

Lauren suggests that lowering parking fees could benefit Dundee City Council as well.

“As soon as your footfall increases and other business owners see that increase in footfall, then they might have an interest in empty outlets in the city centre”, she says.

“They will see there is a demand. There is a lot of people here. At the end of the day that’s also good for the councillors.

“Okay, they might lose a bit of money on parking, but they’ll have more sites open. So, in a roundabout way it works really well.”

The business owner also believes the current parking charges are too expensive.

“Everyone talks about rising costs, but I really do think that if parking was free, or a lot cheaper, it would encourage more people to come out.

“If people are having to pay for parking, and it is so expensive, then they may as well head to Edinburgh and get a full day out. It would give people more of a reason to stay.”

Should public transport be prioritised to aid travel into the city centre?

However, there are other ways of travelling into the city centre if you want to leave the car at home.

Dundee’s once bustling high streets are well connected to city’s many neighbourhoods by a network of bus routes.

Those living in rural areas outside Dundee can also travel straight into the city centre by bus.

Dorothy McHugh is a Labour councillor for the East End Ward and is also the secretary of the Dundee Pensioner’s Forum.

She says that a combination of expensive parking fees and public transport issues are making it difficult to travel into the city centre.

East End Labour councillor, Dorothy McHugh.
East End Labour councillor, Dorothy McHugh.

“I know the council wants to discourage cars coming into the city centre, but for many of us there is no other option”, she says.

“And certainly for older people – sometimes public transport is inaccessible in terms of where the bus stops are and the regularity of the buses.

“Getting on and off when you have mobility issues is not easy. So having a car or using a taxi is a good option.

“It has to be regular and reliable, which is not what we have in Dundee at the moment. And that would be a huge step in encouraging people to not bring cars into the city centre.

“But in the absence of that, people will try and take their cars into the city centre.

“The LEZ regulations are going to come into play and that’s going to discriminate against older people with older cars.”

Could reducing prices make ‘a significant difference’?

The councillor also says that parking charges at the Overgate multi-storey car park are too steep.

“I go into the city centre quite a lot and normally use the Overgate car park”, she adds.

“It is quite expensive and lowering prices would make a significant difference to people using the centre of the town.

“People with less disposable income, who are driving about in older cars will be restricted in how they can come into the city centre.”

Questions remain over how the council would fund a reduction in parking charges though.

What are the alternatives to cheaper parking for struggling businesses?

An environmental campaigner suggests that improving infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians could prove more of win than reducing parking costs.

Andrew Llanwarne, is the co-oordinator of the Friends of the Earth Tayside.

He believes the development of cities over the past 50 years has had a detrimental effect on city centre parking.

“I would say that the ease of parking in out of centre retail parks is certainly to the disadvantage of shops in the city centre”, he says.

Friends of the Earth Tayside co-ordinator Andy Llanwarne.
Friends of the Earth Tayside co-ordinator, Andrew Llanwarne.

“National planning policy increasingly favours access to services through walking, cycling and public transport.

“But we are left with the legacy of policies that have favoured private car transport and out-of-centre retailing.

“We would not favour cheaper parking in the city centre. But would instead like to see more people using bus services and walking or cycling.

The Friends of the Earth group points to the Dundee City Council’s Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan.

It hopes this plan will shift the focus onto improving alternative methods of transport to the car.

“We welcome the provision of more segregated lanes for cycling, to make it safer and easier to cycle into the city centre”, says Andrew.

“We also welcome the Scottish Government’s objective of reducing the kilometres travelled by private car by 20% by 2030.

“And want to see more action by local authorities and Transport Scotland to help achieve this.”

How did the city council respond to parking criticism?

A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “Car parking in Dundee city centre is cheaper than in other major Scottish cities.

“There are also good public transport connections into the city centre from across the city.

“It is important that we can encourage as many people as possible to travel to the city centre by a variety of methods, not just by car.

“Working with partners across the city centre, the council is already delivering on its long-term City Centre Strategic Investment Plan.

“We are seeing interest developing in a number of vacant units across the city centre, with planning applications submitted for several locations.”

How would you bring the city centre back to life?

The Courier’s initiative Dundee Matters aims to find solutions to our city’s problems and drive change.

We are currently tracking the empty and occupied units on several main streets in the city centre, as well as inside the shopping centres.

We will be hosting a summit at our city centre office in May, where a panel will explore issues facing our high streets at an event full of people invested in the future of Dundee.