Hartlepool councillors put brakes on free parking at shopping centre

One of the council's car parks behind Middleton Grange Shopping Centre

One of the council's car parks behind Middleton Grange Shopping Centre

A proposal for free car parking to be introduced in Hartlepool town centre has been scrapped after the council said it would leave it up to £1.5million a year out of pocket.

Councillor David Riddle called for the issue to be investigated at the end of last year and said scrapping charges could help boost the local economy by enticing more people to come to town to shop.

Councillor Marorie James

Councillor Marorie James

The council is to carry out an in-depth review of parking charges, but free parking will not be included within it.

Jeff Mason, head of support services at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Car parking is significant for the council, approximately £1.3million was generated in 2015-16.

“Given the overall financial position, officers would recommend this course of action is not pursued.”

The council manages over 2,000 parking spaces in the town centre area. Charges and fines last year generated £1,335,000 for the council against a target of £1.5million.

The hole [free parking] would leave in loss would be very difficult to find from anywhere else

Councillor Marjorie James

Last year the council also rejected calls for two hours’ free car parking after a petition by Richard Royal, former Conservative parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool.

The authority said it would lead to a loss of £800,000.

In a debate by the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee, chairman Councillor Marjorie James said: “The hole [free parking] it would leave in loss would be very difficult to find from anywhere else.”

Charges for the car parks at Middleton Grange shopping centre are currently 70p an hour.

Parking is free after 4pm and all day on Sunday.

Coun James added: “If free car parking was the issue, logic would tell me the shopping centre would be stuffed on a Sunday and it isn’t.

“It raises the question of whether Sunday and free car parking full stop is actually the answer.”

Coun Brenda Loynes suggested the council considers making the first two hours free but Coun James said it would be difficult to police without investing in number plate recognition technology.

Denise Ogden, director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “We will come back with a number of options for members to consider, but it’s not about adding any other financial burden or pressures on the council.”

The report is due to be produced for the committee by November.