Anger over hike in car parking charges around Navigation Point at Hartlepool Marina
Business bosses at Hartlepool Marina fear it’s sink or swim after claiming they could go bust due to rapidly rising car park charges frightening away customers.
They have accused car park owner Mandale Group of upping prices multiple times in the past year at Navigation Point - leading to a drop in footfall.
The newly formed Hartlepool Marina Business Group (HMBG) alleges the hikes have directly led to two outlets closing in the past six months - and believe more may follow.
In a plea to Hartlepool Borough Council to intervene, it alleges the most recent increases, which kicked in this month and brought in 24-hour ticketing, will send some businesses past breaking point.
It is now urging council chiefs to buy the 340-space car park, which is predicted to rake in over £83,000 this year in charges – almost double that of just two years ago – to put them on a firmer footing.
HMBG member Andrew Bianco, co-owner of Bianco’s Deli, established at Navigation Point for 16 years, said: “Our businesses are struggling because people will not come due to aggressive ticketing and the fees having skyrocketed.
“These most recent increases will be the breaking point for many struggling businesses on the marina and we fear once bars start to fold, trade will plummet for the rest of us.
“It would be a tragedy for the council to regenerate the waterfront only for Navigation Point to host a number of closed and boarded up units.
“As businesses we work tirelessly to make the marina a success, but trade is undoubtedly tough and this would really harm many of us.
“Our request is that Hartlepool council buys the car park to help the businesses and help support the positive image that the marina brings to Hartlepool.
“Further increases in car parking charges will only produce devastating consequences which we believe are avoidable.”
He added: “It is a genuine concern that some may go out of business. Mandale has increased charges a number of times in the past year and has now brought them in 24-hours-a-day.
“We’re hoping the council will help and I’m confident that it will. We have had some positive feedback and it would be really good if the council got on board.”
Parking remains free for the first 30-minutes and there have been no changes to costs up to five hours, which is priced at £3.50.
But a previous £4 ticket to park between 8am and 6pm weekdays, and 9am to 9pm on weekends, has been replaced by a 24-hour £6 flat fee.
Mr Bianco also fears property developer Mandale Group had put up prices to prove the level of revenue it is possible to make to help sell a site it has on the market.
Joe Darragh, Mandale Group’s head of property development, said it was unfair to blame parking charges for business failings – and claimed the price hike was designed to deter drink-drivers.
He said: “Our parking charges have just changed, but these two businesses stopped operating six months ago, and one has since been taken over by someone else.
“It costs £6 for 24-hours, which means people can leave their cars there, which means they don’t risk drink-driving. We’re trying to make it user friendly.
“Charges used to be from 8am to 6pm and free at night, but people used to leave their car overnight and have to get back before 8am, because that was when the tariff kicked in.
“It’s to alleviate the rush, that would push people away from drink-driving. We would look at what people say, but it would have to be factual.”
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said: “We are in receipt of a letter from members of the Hartlepool Marina Business Group raising concerns around charges at the privately-owned car park that serves Navigation Point.
“We are looking at options regarding their preferred proposal in terms of acquiring the car park as part of the Council’s overall work to regenerate the Hartlepool Waterfront.”
Sheffield-based VCS, which manages the car park for Mandale Group, have been approached for comment.