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Drivers call for free parking proposition to be extended to small towns

The AA Populus poll found that for the majority (71%) of drivers, the amount charged for parking often determines whether or not they will visit a town centre, holiday resort or attraction.

And 89% of the 18,688 respondents believe that parking charges are set to maximise council income and operator company profits – rather than simply providing a service.

And while nearly nine out of every 10 (89%) are realistic enough to accept that parking is bound to be more expensive where parking space is at a premium, 67% of AA members feel that councils and companies that run parking often treat users badly. Nearly a third (62%) agree that there are never enough spaces and not enough is being done to improve provision.

In particular, 86% of the drivers say that parking spaces are often too small for the size of the modern car.

Drivers also showed disillusion and lack of trust has tainted driver perception of council attempts to make car park charge payments more flexible, such as paying by mobile phone.

The AA–Populus survey, between 28 April and 6 May 2015, asked drivers how readily they would take to paying for parking by phone:

  • 52% – said they had no interest in paying by phone
  • 8% – said they wouldn’t pay by phone because they don’t trust it or the operators
  • 7% – would like to pay by phone but are put off by the number of different schemes, areas and operators
  • 6% – already use pay–by–phone wherever they can
  • 5% – use pay by phone locally but prefer to pay by cash in unfamiliar areas
  • 4% – are put off paying by phone because of the additional cost of registering and calls
  • 18% – haven’t come across pay–by–phone parking. 

“The minister’s recent intervention chimes well with the overwhelming opinion of AA members and other drivers. He just needs to extend those sentiments to council–run parking in bigger towns,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

“For the majority of drivers, the concept of councils elected by the people to serve the people does not appear to apply to car parking. The deep–rooted suspicion is that parking charges and penalties serve only one purpose – propping up council coffers.

“However, in its response to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s call for evidence on parking reform, the AA highlighted a major advantage of council parking – it is regulated, unlike private parking.”

In its response to the Government’s consultation ‘Parking reform: tackling unfair practices’, the AA suggested that the Government could highlight examples of best practice that encourage people to drive into towns, park without threat, and then spend for the benefit of local business.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.