Aberdeenshire councillors have been told they will “have learned nothing from the folly of Angus Council” if they press ahead with plans to end free parking.
Speaking ahead of a crunch council vote on Thursday, Mearns SNP councillor Leigh Wilson said he had seen for himself how formerly busy car parks in Angus “are now lying empty in a council-concocted wasteland”.
In an attempt to start making a profit from Aberdeenshire’s loss-making car parks, the council’s infrastructure services committee tried to begin the process of removing free periods from its pay and dsplay sites last November.
A counter-proposal from SNP councillors – which would instead have balanced the car parking budget while retaining a half-hour free parking period in all settlements – was defeated by nine votes to five.
However, the administration bid to scrap the free period was also thwarted after opposition councillors insisted that any decision on the change should be made by all 70 councillors at a meeting of January’s full Aberdeenshire Council.
Mr Wilson said: “This plan as it stands is a complete nonsense.
“Most people using the current free parking period are making some kind of ‘grab and go’ purchase.
“If they are forced to pay for making even a brief stop-off, many customers will choose to go instead to the supermarkets.
“Short free parking periods have helped sustain town centres and enjoy the support of shoppers and business owners alike. It beggars belief that some in Aberdeenshire council seem happy to take that away without giving serious consideration to the wider economic implications.”
Charges have proved hugely contentious since they were introduced by Angus Council on November 1, leading to angry protests and even vandal attacks on the card-only machines.
Businesses have also reported disastrous declines in takings and social media has been peppered with photographs of virtually empty car parks during the working week.
Mr Wilson said: “If Aberdeenshire councillors press ahead with this decision they will have learned nothing from the folly of Angus Council.
“My ward borders Angus and I see for myself how formerly busy car parks are now lying empty in a council concocted wasteland.
“Every councillor in Aberdeenshire now has a vote on this, and with it, a choice to make on whether to back the ‘party line’ or to do what is right by their communities.
“I would urge them to listen carefully to the voices of their constituents and their local business owners by keeping in place a successful and popular policy which has been proven to work.”