Hartlepool could make parking free in bid to boost town’s economy

Park Road car park.
Park Road car park.

Council chiefs are to investigate ideas that could make car parking free across Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Borough Council made around £350,000 last year in charges from hundreds of public parking spaces.

But the authority is to examine other money-making schemes that could allow parking to be free for the public.

It comes after a call by Councillor David Riddle.

Shoppers can already park for free on Sundays at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre all year and on Saturday during December.

But Coun Riddle said the council should look at ways of providing free car parking across the town all year round.

He said it could attract more people to Hartlepool and result in more money being spent in town.

Coun Riddle said: “Surely, if we want to do something meaningful about parking charges, something genuinely innovative, we should allow our officers to explore every conceivable avenue.”

Coun Riddle said ideas to recoup money lost in parking charges could include, getting businesses to sponsor parking spaces, putting up advertising hoardings, allowing a petrol station to be built in a council car park and using the rent to subsidise parking or leasing space for car valeting or a car wash.

In a members’ question discussed at the last full council meeting Coun Riddle said: “The majority of town centres across the Tees Valley incorporate some free car parking provision all year round.”

He added: “Just because something is free at the point of use does not necessarily mean it has no wider monetary value.

“Nor does it mean a free product or service cannot be organised in separate but interconnected ways.

“I hear a lot of our council leader professing Hartlepool is innovative in our pursuit of additional revenue streams.

“Let’s really try to be innovative, let’s take this idea to our committees and see what we can come up with.”

Coun Riddle, cited the town of Cardigan in Wales where people were allowed to park for free for several weeks and said shops reported a boost to sales of between 30%-50%.

Statistics from the RAC Foundation showed that parking charges in Hartlepool generated £476,000 for the council last year, but that also included charges for council staff to park at council parking areas.

Coun Allan Barclay, vice chair of the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee said money made from car parking goes towards road and footpath maintenance which was more important than ever given Government funding cuts.

He added there had been no increase in charges since 2010 and it compares charges with neighbouring towns to make sure they remain competitive.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “My only concern is we have just agreed next year’s budget and suggest it be considered as part of next year’s budget by Neighbourhood Services.”