A decision on a residents’ parking scheme for Stamford has been put on hold following MP Nick Boles’ call for free parking in the town centre.
South Kesteven District Council’s cabinet was due to discuss a revised scheme for residents’ parking permits at a meeting today.
But councillors opted to reconsider the scheme after Mr Boles called for two hours’ free parking in district council car parks in Friday’s Mercury.
A council spokesman said: “Plans for a residents’ parking scheme in Stamford have been put on hold.
“South Kesteven District Council’s Cabinet decided that the surprise call from local MP Nick Boles for free two hour parking to be introduced meant that the authority needed to consider what effect such a move would have on both on- and off-street parking.
“A report will go back to councillors in the New Year.”
The latest single-zone scheme had been drawn up in consultation with residents after an initial five-zone proposal was dismissed.
Council leader Linda Neal (Con) said Mr Boles’ idea was at odds with the authority’s policy to encourage people to stay longer in its towns.
She said: “Free two hour car parking could very well lead to people popping into town to go to the bank and perhaps pick up something from a supermarket, but do little else.
“That is why our emphasis has been on making longer stays low cost.”
Mrs Neal pointed out that people who needed to park for 30 minutes or less could do so for 50p.
But she said the council was keen for visitors to stay longer and charged just £3 for an all day ticket. A similar ticket in Lincoln costs £7.50.
Mrs Neal said: “The comparisons demonstrate that we are not over-charging and those who prefer free two-hour parking must understand that such a move would mean that we would lose income but still need to clean and maintain the car parks and the CCTV would still have to be paid for, so a sum of about £370,000 would have to be found from somewhere else.
“We could charge more for our other services – for green bins, for leisure, or for events at our arts centres for example – but that would mean that many people who do not use the car parks would be subsidising those who do.
“As you can see, there are no easy solutions, and one thing that is certain is that internet shopping is not going to go away and this will continue to affect high street traders.”
Mrs Neal said one option might be to introduce a double ticket system, where the parking ticket machine dispenses two tickets. One goes on display in the car windscreen and the other is used to get a refund from a retailer when a set price threshold is reached.