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FREE PARKING: Extension of Flintshire free parking

FREE PARKING: Extension of Flintshire free parking

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SENIOR councillors have backed the extension of free parking in Flintshire to help the area’s town centres recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Charges have been suspended at pay and display car parks owned by Flintshire Council since the Covid-19 outbreak began in March last year.

The decision was made to limit personal contact and reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted via surfaces on pay machines.

It has since been extended on a number of occasions to support businesses and today (Tuesday, 16 March) it was agreed that free parking would remain in place until at least June 30, 2021.

Speaking at a meeting of the local authority’s ruling Labour cabinet held this morning, deputy council leader Carolyn Thomas, said: “Our car parking charges have been suspended since March last year.

“Initially, it was to limit contact and the handling of coins and to assist key workers with essential shopping.

“Since then, during the re-opening of town centres in June and leading up to Christmas and the various forms of lockdown and closure of non-essential shops, the cabinet has continued to approve the suspension of car parking charges.

“To ensure the turnover of spaces close to the town, a person parking at short stay car parks still needs to obtain a free ticket to display in their vehicle.

“This ensures valuable spaces close to towns and the shops are not taken up all day.

“Whilst parking in the car parks, all other rules apply, such as parking within a marked bay and displaying a valid blue badge when parking in a designated disabled bay.”

The council has lost approximately £844,000 worth of income during the current financial year as a result of charges being suspended.

The majority of that has been recovered via grants handed out by the Welsh Government.

However a sum of around £260,000 could not be recouped due to changes in grant criteria.

There will also be an additional loss of approximately £88,000 from the reduction in parking fines handed out.

Cllr Thomas said: “Details of the financial impact are provided within the report.

“The loss of income has been vastly negated by the Welsh Government’s loss of income grants support based on calculations of possible utilisation under the pandemic during the period.

“There is still a loss, but I’m hoping that the short term loss on income will assist with the longer term recovery of businesses post lockdown and to assist with the sustainability and improve the vibrancy of town centres.

“We are also looking to explore alternative methods of contactless payment as car parking is reintroduced to help with convenience.”

Cabinet members supported the recommendations, which also give delegated powers to the council’s chief executive to extend free parking until September 30, 2021 if required.

Words: Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter

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