Councillors will be asked to approve a comprehensive review of car parking in Aberdeenshire.
Aberdeenshire Council is responsible for the management and maintenance of 109 car parks across the region, covering some 4,000 spaces.
Just over 1,100 of these are pay and display spaces, with the remainder being either free or set aside for blue badge holders.
Parking permits are offered to residents who live within defined zones and pay and display spaces are enforced through the use of excess charge notices.
The council’s current parking model is based on providing a balance of different parking types: high-demand, high-turnover spaces in some car parks through pay and display; high-demand, limited-waiting spaces on-street through waiting restrictions; and free car parking to accommodate shop and office workers. The Infrastructure Services Committee recently approved a new Local Transport Strategy (LTS) for the area, including associated actions relating to car parking.
Councillors will be asked to agree to a comprehensive review of car parking, as set out in the LTS.
The review would see the preparation of a strategy for a car park charging regime for 2013-16 as well as the development of a ticketing machine replacement programme.
A review of the balance of free and paid car parks in town centres would also be done in tandem with preparation of the charging regime strategy.
This is intended to identify local issues before identifying options which address them and this year would cover Banchory, Huntly, Ellon and Fraserburgh.
It would take into account local community plan aspirations relating to parking, town centre strategies, local community concerns and future development proposals affecting town centres.
In April last year, charges were increased in pay and display car parks across the area as part of a wider consideration of income and expenditure across the council.
Consultation on these changes and on the new Local Transport Strategy also revealed concerns about the existing charging regime, with residents and businesses proposing alternative charging regimes they would like to see considered to better address local issues and strengthen the economic vitality of Aberdeenshire’s towns.
If the review is approved by councillors, it will inform the setting of car park budgets for the future.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, Stephen Archer, said: “The model we have now has generally worked well, with pay and display provision crucial to making long-term parking in town centre car parks less attractive, thereby releasing valuable spaces for short term visitors upon whom the economy of most town centres depend.
“The development of the new Local Transport Strategy (LTS) has provided the opportunity to take a step back and refocus attentions on how Aberdeenshire’s transport services, including car parking, should be shaped in the future.
“We listened to what we were told by communities as part of the production of the new LTS and are endeavouring to reflect that in this proposed program of reviews.”
Head of Transportation, Ewan Wallace, said: “What is proposed is to work with local communities and individual towns.
“We will be looking at the use of the car parks as more than just places for leaving vehicles; as open spaces often in the centre of settlements they could be used for community events, or possibly by traders.
“We hope that communities will participate in these reviews if they are approved and help us develop a strategy which meets the often different needs of our towns and villages.”