Thousands of people have weighed in with opinions on Angus parking charges.
A month-long online consultation on the issue of on and off-street parking has now closed and council chiefs are working through what they have described as an “informed and passionate” response.
Feedback included more than 1,500 comments or suggestions on the question of whether people should have to pay for parking, and how much.
The November 2018 re-introduction of parking charges in 33 off-street Angus was met with fierce opposition from local communities, including town centre businesses.
It led to a petition which was delivered in a noisy protest at the council HQ within weeks of the charges coming into effect.
Opponents repeatedly lobbied council meetings for the charges to be dropped amid claims the move had led to a dramatic downturn in income for some businesses – and even forced others to shut their doors.
Income less than half of budget projection
The scheme has also proved a financial disaster for the authority after it cost more than £300,000 to install meters and signs for the off-street charging regime.
Almost a year on from the charges being brought in the authority had to fork out another five-figure sum to put cash payment meters in place at 14 of the 33 off-street cark parks.
The first year income of £320,000 was less than half the predicted figure in the 2018 budget forecast when councillors agreed to end two decades of free parking.
Covers were put on all Angus meters early in the pandemic and will remain there until at least the end of March.
Pandemic presented ‘window of opportunity’
The council said the coronavirus crisis had presented a “window of opportunity” to re-examine the issue.
A member/officer working group was set up and it instigated the online survey.
Virtual meetings have also been held with community groups and business interests as part of the consultation.
Communities convener, Councillor Mark Salmond, who chairs the group, said members would look at the responses and consider them in detail before making any recommendations, while also taking environmental and economic impacts into account.
“While that is a process that we will complete diligently in the coming weeks, it is already clear to us that those who took time to respond were both informed and passionate about parking in Angus,” he said.
“Nowhere was this more apparent than in the 1,600 or so comments and suggestions made as part of the survey.
“Where responses to questions were sought by people filling out the survey, council officers are committed to responding to each one.”
Decision on way forward due within weeks
The Montrose independent said the intention was to publish a decision on the findings early in the new year.
Brechin businessman Bruce Robertson said: “I hope the council listen properly this time to what people are saying.
“I felt the survey was set up in a way to obtain certain answers and some choices which you might have wanted to there weren’t available. But there were comment boxes and I did put my comments in those.”
He added: “My view from the beginning was that there is no place for charging in the small market towns in Angus.
“I still believe that.
“We are not like Aberdeenshire or Perthshire and I believe we need to be able to park vehicles in the centre of town to keep our businesses thriving.”