THE ARBROATH business community is up in arms over council plans to convert busy car parks from long-stay to short-stay.
The car park behind the Webster Memorial Theatre currently allows for all-day parking, but a new Angus Council proposal will see parking limited to just two hours.
The proposal is part of a series of measures Angus Council wish to make to draw more visitors into the town centre in an effort to boost the economy.
Now businesses at the harbour end of the High Street are concerned about how this will affect them, and whether it will be worth the hassle.
Lindsay Mudie, senior partner at Commercial and Agricultural Insurance Brokers, based in Erskine House on Commerce Street, is incensed with the plan.
He said: “As a business this needs to be fought. The impact of this is going to be huge.
“This is a ludicrous proposition. It is beyond belief. Someone without a clue has come up with this proposal.
“I’ve been told that it’s a done deal and the public consultation was just notices stuck on lampposts. This will be massively harmful for all the businesses that use this car park.”
Mr Mudie does not believe altering parking times will have much effect on visitor numbers, he stated: “This is all for some mythical uplift in visitor numbers.
“How many visitors and tourists in November are we likely to expect? You couldn’t make this up.”
He concluded: “Where are people going to park now? Local businesses are far more important than some mythical tourists.”
Heinz Voight, of architectural firm The Voight Partnership Ltd., is also concerned by the effect this will undoubtedly have.
Their design studio located at the rear of the Webster Memorial Theatre employs eight full-time staff, all of whom drive to work, and park in the Ladybridge Street car park.
Many clients and contractors visit the studio on a regular, if not daily basis, and meetings can last for much longer than two hours. Already by 11 a.m. on Wednesday there had been five such meetings.
Mr Voight said: “We have clients in the oil business who come down from Aberdeen for all day meetings and to have them go out and move their cars every two hours is crazy.
“At the end of the day we’re trying to run a business here.”
The Voight Partnership is currently in the process of renovating the old church on Commerce street, a £250,000 project to create their new design studio and five new business units.
Mr Voight added: “We’re trying to attract new businesses to the units and one of the selling points was that there was access to parking.”
Even paying for all day parking would be more acceptable to Mr Voight. He said: “I’d actually prefer to go back to paying.
“I had no issues with the paying car park, but this could really snooker our business. To start restricting the parking time to two hours is just crazy.
“Angus Council need to start thinking in joined up writing.”
Other businesses will also be affected, with many town centre workers using the car park, as well as the like of ironmonger Barclay Ross which backs onto the car park, the staff and patrons of the Webster Memorial Theatre, and many others.
According to Councillor David Fairweather, the proposal received cross-party support when it was suggested.
He said: “We were welcoming what we thought was right for bringing visitors into the town. Obviously there are concerns from the business community who use the car park all day.”
He has pledged that Angus Council will do its best to minimise any negative impact on local businesses, adding: “We will look at any way we can to help and to alleviate their problems. Of course we’re going to work with them on this.”
A spokesperson for Angus Council said: “As part of the Arbroath Traffic Management review, a need was identified for improved opportunities for shopper and visitor parking close to the High Street. The re-designation of Marketgate / Ladybridge car park behind Webster’s Theatre as a short stay car park was recommended as a possible solution to this. To assess the effects of this proposal, car parking surveys were carried out by consultants on a weekday and on a Saturday, not only in the Marketgate / Ladybridge car park but throughout the town centre. Analysis of these surveys indicated that there was sufficient spare capacity in the surrounding area (within 1 – 2 minutes walk) to accommodate the displaced long stay parking.
“It should be noted that the two hour maximum stay proposed for the car park behind Webster’s Theatre would only apply Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m., allowing overnight parking by residents.
“In progressing the procedures for amending the off street car park order, Angus Council will advertise and invite representations on the proposed changes, giving the current users of the car park and the local community the opportunity to comment on the proposals.”