Parking in Biggleswade looks set for a shake-up as the town council is considering additional free time at its sites, as well as longer hours at Dan Albone.
Following the success of its free Saturday parking for Christmas and its extension to January and February, further ideas are being mooted for Chronicle country.
The exact detail of the changes are not yet finalised, however they will likely include: free parking on a Saturday at council car parks, an all-day parking option at Dan Albone car park, and an increase in the free-stay period from one to two hours at council car parks.
Biggleswade Town Council has stated it had positive feedback from the shops, market traders and the public to the pre-Christmas Saturday free parking trial, with car parks two-thirds full, which, it says, is a considerable improvement.
This has led to two months’ additional free parking in January and February to help the town economy and to allow further collection of data.
Cllr Mark Knight said: “I’m really pleased that the council agreed to allow more time because the feedback I have had from shopkeepers in town has been really positive. It’s helped them over Christmas.
“Every Saturday I have tried to go down and look at the car parks; if they were all overflowing then I think it would be an issue, but there’s always been somewhere to park. It’s important that we keep the town centre vibrant and support businesses. It’s a vital place to go shopping and I’m certainly going to be pushing for it [permanently free Saturday parking].
“The extension (Jan-Feb) of the temporary extension (Christmas) is to allow time to finalise improvements. Making the change permanent requires some changes to parking orders that require formal consultation and of course re-printing quite a lot of signage.
“Hence the desire to make any changes council wishes to implement in one go.”
He added: “There are some other proposals that we’re considering at the moment such as extending the free parking period; there’s broad support for increasing the free time on Monday - Friday to longer than one hour.
“I’d like to see three hours free parking, but I suspect the consensus will be around two hours free.”
Minutes from a recent council meeting show that consideration is being given to increasing parking charges. Cllr Grant Fage explained: “The car park that
[the rise in price] is being considered for - although nothing is finalised yet - is Dan Albone car park.
“The reason the charge might go up is because we would be extending the hours for how long people can stay; it is close to green spaces, and you can go for walks around the Green Wheel.”
As the whole walk takes several hours, it is hoped that the increased time of stay at Dan Albone will encourage families to visit as it would ease time constraints.
It is currently 9hrs on weekdays (no return within 4hrs) and operating between 8am-6pm.
However, Cllr Fage stated that the council hasn’t yet decided on the length of time or new fees.
Commenting on the free Saturday parking trial, he added: “It seems very positive. It’s been well received. We noticed car parks filling up a little bit
more on Saturday and Sunday as a result of the free parking, and we welcome that.
“Since we put new parking orders in place in August 2018, we have built up a picture of what is going on in our car parks.
“The reality was that they were filling up with commuters who would come in at 7am and take the parking space for the whole day. We brought in the restriction which did benefit people who wanted to shop in the town.”
Currently, the council car parks have maximum stay limits ranging from one, three and four hours to six and nine hours. However, the councillors recognise the importance of helping everyone in the town.
Cllr Fage said: “We are proactively seeking options for a long stay commuter car park. CBC has said money can be made available.”
Meanwhile Cllr Knight concluded with an update about ticket machines. He said:“The ticket machines have also had some software problems (bugs), that have meant people having trouble returning to car parks twice in one day (i.e. once in the morning and again later in the afternoon, perhaps as with a school run).
“I understand the ticket machine vendor is now testing a new software version to see if this fixes the problem.”