Thousands of Angus residents have registered their opposition to off-street charges in the county’s car parks.
After a year of pandemic-related lost income and with an administration pledge the meters will remain covered until May 2022, findings of a community-wide consultation have been revealed.
More than 3,000 people responded to the online survey after the authority used the Covid-19 crisis to press the reset button on the scheme, two years after charges were introduced.
And 70% of respondents said they do not want to see the return of charges.
The return of meters to 33 off-street car parks provoked anger among residents and the business community, leaving the council facing a financial headache after full first-year income failed to reach even half of the forecast £700,000.
Critics have said it will take years for the six-figure set-up costs to be repaid and the consultation outcome has highlighted the level of opposition to parking fees.
Of the 3,093 responses to the survey, 97% came from residents of Angus.
Almost 65% of those who took part in the consultation said they worked in the county.
The off-street parking situation showed an almost even split between those who used one of the 33-car parks more than once a week on average (41%) and less than once a week on average (44%), with 458 motorists saying they had never used one.
The survey also revealed the absence of traffic towards the Angus Pay to Park website, which was set up to allow drivers to buy permits in advance or even just pay for a single parking session.
Almost 2,500 respondents, 80% of the total, said they had never used the site.
In the survey section asking residents to rate a range of options for off-street parking charges, the free option was the clear favourite – top ranked by 2,074 respondents, just over 70% of the total.
There was strong support for two options suggesting a period of free parking – one hour free, followed by £1 for one to four hours and £2 for four hours or longer, and the first two hours free, followed by a £2 charge thereafter.
The lowest-ranked option was the charging rate brought in with the return of meters – £1 an hour up to a maximum of £4.
87% said they would not purchase an off-street parking permit.
For on-street parking, the option of 45 minutes free ranked highest, ahead of one hour and the current half-hour allowance.
The survey also delivered a flood of public comments.
“There would have been no need for a parking review if Angus Council had listened to the concerns of the people of the burgh in the first place,” said one respondent.
“I feel the people of the burgh have made it clear by avoiding car parks how they feel about the shambolic handling of this.
“The projected figures given as to the money parking would raise within Angus was farcical and made Angus Council a laughing stock. The drop in footfall caused small businesses to close.
“I implore Angus Council to listen and to get it sorted properly this time.”
Communities committee councillors will consider the findings at a meeting on Tuesday, but the ruling coalition has already declared charges will remain suspended for the remainder of the current administration.
Committee convener Mark Salmond said the policy decision had been unanimously agreed by the administration group ahead of the council budget-setting at the beginning of next month.
“Parking charges will not return in the near future, to remove any uncertainty in the minds of Angus businesses and allow them to fully focus on rebuilding their economic security,” he said.