York must learn to live with fewer car parking spaces, the city council’s transport executive told frustrated opposition councillors.
At a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday (4 December), Cllr Pete Kilbane, the City of York Council’s transport and economy executive, responded to concerns about plans to reduce car parking spaces in York.
Liberal Democrat and Green Party plans for a £15m multi-storey car park on St George’s Field, first submitted four years ago, were scrapped by their succeeding Labour administration in November, just six months after being elected.
However, that decision did come after the previous transport executive, York Green Party leader Andy D’Agorne, declared the car park plan ‘dead in the water’ in spring 2022.
Despite the scrapping of a new purpose-built car park, the new administration doubled down on the plan to remove the Castle Car Park, albeit retaining some Blue Badge spaces.
It wants to go ahead with a flexible green space with children’s play provision in the area around Clifford’s Tower – creating “simpler, more affordable scheme” based on the original Castle Gateway Masterplan benefits.
This is “subject to an updated business case being brought back to executive for full consideration, and where closure will only occur when a revised scheme has been approved for delivery”.
The Conservatives, alongside independent Cllr Mark Warters, and the Liberal Democrats argued that good decision-making was not followed regarding these matters, alleging a breach of the council’s constitution.
Meanwhile, Chris Bush, business manager at York BID, told the scrutiny committee: “The BID directors understand the need for green ambitions but car parking remains an important subject to many city-centre businesses.
“This is seen as a major factor in how York competes against out-of-town shopping centres and other external retail offerings.
“If the city council is to remove the most popular car park in the city centre, businesses must have evidence that this will not reduce footfall and spending.”
£1 million annual loss
Cllr Kilbane, who is also the council’s deputy leader, said: “We’ve been talking a lot to business about this.
“Most of us are on the same page that what matters to business is footfall, not how people get there.”
He added that making the Castle Car Park more attractive would be more beneficial than having more car parking spaces, using the Christmas Market as an example.
“The reduction in parking will happen if we’re successful with our transport plan to reduce driven miles by 20 per cent,” Cllr Kilbane said.
“You can’t reduce the amount of miles driven without reducing the amount of cars.
“We will face a reduction in parking and as a council, we need to learn how to deal with that and how to cope with that.”
Opposition councillors are also concerned about the financial aspect of the plans, as Cllr Ayre claimed that the loss in parking from the Castle car park would cost £1.6m a year.
While finance executive Cllr Katie Lomas acknowledged that figure, she said: “We would only lose £1m of that because we estimate that £600,000 would be displaced at our other car parking sites which are largely underused for the majority of the year.”
On the £15m multi-storey car park, Cllr Lomas added: “The revenue costs for the borrowing year-on-year for that are £1.1m for 40 years.
“Building that multi-storey car park would commit this council to pay £1.1m from revenue every year for the next 40 years.”
Cllr Lomas insisted “the council’s revenue budget will be better off by doing this.”
Seven Labour councillors voted that there was no breach to either of the call-in requests, while five Liberal Democrats voted there was to both.