Pay & display car parks ‘don’t support Colchester town centre’
- Credit: andrew partridge
A business group has described a move to introduce pay and display machines at two Colchester car parks as ‘a giant step backwards’.
The Essex Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is concerned scrapping the previous pay on exit barrier system at the St Mary’s and St John’s car parks earlier this year will put people off using the town centre.
Instead the Colchester Borough Council-run car parks now use coin-operated pay and display machines, while drivers can also use the MiPermit online payment system – which also has a smartphone app – using a debit or credit card.
The machines themselves do not give change or take card payment.
David Bell, Essex FSB chairman, said: “It is widely accepted the best charging method for car parks to support town centre economies is pay on exit.
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“The introduction of pay and display machines flies in the face of this and is wholly unacceptable.
“There appears to have been no consultation on this with the business community or the Colchester Town Team.
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“It would appear on the surface this has been considered on a cost basis alone, and not on the basis of what is the best service to support Colchester’s hundreds of town centre businesses.
“We have already seen the disastrous decision to introduce parking charges to Dedham’s car parks with the resultant destruction of the ticket machines on several occasions, so I challenge the council to explain this decision publicly to the business community.
“I would encourage visitors to come to our beautiful town and enjoy its superb range of shops, restaurants, pubs and other businesses as well as the stunning heritage the town offers – but be sure to bring plenty of change for the ticket machines.”
The council said more than 30,000 payments have already been made using the MiPermit system in the St Mary’s and St John’s car parks since its introduction.
Dominic Graham, Colchester borough councillor for street services, said: “Introducing MiPermit pay and display in to our car parks is part of the council’s drive to provide efficient services and minimise ongoing maintenance costs.
“The technology supporting the previously used barrier entry system, in place for at least eight years, needed updating if it was to be retained.
“The barrier-free entry and exit now gives easier access to and from Balkerne Hill, particularly at busy times such as after the end of shows at the nearby Mercury Theatre. “Coin payment remains an option at all our sites.
“The move also supports the growing numbers of residents switching to paying online for a host of everyday services. Thousands of motorists have already completed the one-off registration for MiPermit and are happily using it.”