Is there really demand for 'pay on exit' parking in Bury St Edmunds?
PUBLISHED: 14:07 27 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:18 27 July 2019
The trial of long-awaited 'pay on exit' parking in Bury St Edmunds has seen less people use the car park, raising questions over its success.
The scheme called Flexi-Park was launched in the town centre St Andrews short stay car park in the last week of June, but technical issues have led to queues and complaints.
READ MORE: Pay on exit car parking to be trialled in town centre
Giving people the option to pay when they leave Bury town centre car parks, so they don't have to rush back to their car, has been a key aim of the Business Improvement District group Ourburystedmunds.
A spokesman for West Suffolk Council, which operates the car parks, said usage of the St Andrews short stay car park was down over the four weeks of the trial compared to the same period last year.
He said the council had been receiving an average of 50 emails a week about the car park, but it had reduced "substantially" over the past week as teething problems - such as the machines' slow network connection - are resolved.
Peter Stevens, cabinet member for operations at West Suffolk Council, said: "We are aware that Flexi-Park has presented a change to users and there have been some technical issues which we have worked to address.
"We are listening to customer feedback, we have improved the machine instructions and we will be installing an additional check out machine in the next week or so help alleviate the problem with queuing."
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Flexi-Park has been used on 11,541 occasions, with 837 customers taking advantage of the option to stay longer than the previous limit of three hours.
Mark Cordell, the BID's chief executive, said he remains "convinced" the public want to stay in Bury as long as they can rather than having to get back to their car as their parking ticket is about to expire, but the system needed to be customer-friendly.
"The concept of people being able to stay in town for as long as they wish is a sound concept and one our businesses wanted introduced so we are very supportive of this car parking trial but undoubtedly there have been some teething troubles, which the council have tried to address promptly."
He added: "This is a trial and its only in one car park and therefore the public still have the choice to use this facility or not."
Overall, usage of the town centre council-run car parks is up nearly 5% over the first four weeks of the trial.
West Suffolk Council manages close to 4,000 town centre car parking spaces in Bury, including 363 at the Flexi-Park.
Mr Stevens added: "The important message is that not only are people still coming to Bury St Edmunds, but use of our town centre car parks is also up by a significant amount during the period in which Flexi-Park has been in operation."
He said the council has explored using a camera or barrier based system during the pay on exit trial, but barriers are costly to install and manage and the council would not be able to enforce parking using evidence from the ANPR cameras.
The Flexi-Park trial does not have an end date and the use of all the car parks is being monitored, the council said.