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Call to end parking charges at Pembrokeshire County Hall expected to fail

Pembrokeshire County Hall

A CALL to end parking charges at Haverfordwest’s County Hall is expected to be turned down senior councillors.

Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on February 12, are to consider a notice of motion by Merlins Bridge, Haverfordwest, county councillor John Cole.

Last February, following a 2022 consultation, the county council’s Cabinet backed the introduction of charges at the car park, on the edge of Haverfordwest’s town centre, during a wider item on short-stay parking in the county.

That consultation had raised concerns about a potential loss of footfall and an impact on businesses in the town, and fears parking charges may divert shoppers to out-of-town retail parks.

Haverfordwest Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Cole’s notice asked: “That the council undertake a full assessment of how parking charges introduced at County Hall have impacted the businesses in and around the town.

“That council reverses the decision to charge a fee in respect of parking at County Hall on the Saturday and Sunday periods.”

His notice added: “Current charges mean residents and visitors are restricted by the hours purchased, as to the amount of time they spend in the town, thereby surely having a detrimental effect on businesses that rely on such custom.”

A report for Cabinet members said: “Haverfordwest is clearly in a transition phase with regeneration developments well underway.

County Hall car park is primarily a County Hall staff car park, with public parking evenings and weekends. As well as on street and off-street parking public transport links are available.

“The County Hall car park is now managed via the off-street parking area and charges applied are in line with full cost recovery and budget pressures. There is alternative free parking available. There is no evidence that the charges at County Hall have impacted directly on footfall in Haverfordwest.”

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Two options are highlighted to Cabinet members, to adopt the motion, with the costs of managing the car park needing to be found from council budgets, and a recommended ‘do nothing’ approach.

The report, recommending the motion not be adopted, concludes: “Car park charging is often perceived, particularly amongst businesses, as being a key determinant for changes in footfall levels in town and city centres, although research has shown this to be almost entirely anecdotal.

“The same research showed that whilst a ‘blanket’ free parking strategy has been suggested to encourage more car park users, these were generally found not to benefit target visitors.  There is currently a complex situation in Haverfordwest at the current time: significant development work is ongoing.

“Coupled with the fact that the County Hall car park does not have previous usage figures, it is difficult to properly assess the impact of removing charges and whether such measures would have any impact on returning the numbers visiting the town centre back to pre-charge numbers.”