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A message from SODC on increased parking charges

Parking changes in South Oxfordshire – what you need to know

On Monday 4 April we will be introducing some important changes to our public car parks in Didcot, Goring, Henley, Thame and Wallingford.

We’ve put together the following information to help explain what’s happening and why:

What changes are we making?

  • There will be a new charging period for our car parks, from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday*
  • There will be a small increase in parking fees*
  • New and renewed permits will be valid for the car park they are issued for and will not be transferable to other sites.

*These changes will not apply at Goldsmiths Lane in Wallingford, which is part-owned by Wallingford Town Council and a private developer.

Why do we need to make changes?

We are introducing these changes to help ensure our car parks break even financially.  In past years, motorists in the district have benefited from low parking fees. However, costs are increasing and we’ve sustained financial losses from our car parks for the last two years.  If action isn’t taken, our projections are that losses would continue and grow.

How much does it cost to run our car parks?

It costs almost £1 million per year to operate and maintain our car parks.  Our car parks normally break even, however during 2021/22 income dropped to just over £700,000.

Why do the car parks cost so much to run?

Car parks may look like flat pieces of tarmac, but they cost a lot of money to maintain to ensure they are safe for people to use.

We need to make sure each car park is lit properly to help keep people safe at night.  We must ensure the surface is safe for people walking through there and won’t cause any damage to vehicles.

We also have to pay business rates for each car park and there are also the costs of enforcement, administration and maintaining ticket machines to take into account.

Why can’t we continue to subsidise parking?

In recent years the government has made substantial cuts to council funding and we’ve also experienced increased costs and a loss of income due to Covid-19.

We also have one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country which places a further strain on our finances.  When costs have increased, current rules have largely prevented us from addressing this situation, meaning we’ve had to increase charges for some of our non-statutory services in order to raise additional income.

Ideally, we would like car park users to cover the cost of running our car parks and not the general council tax payer.

If we continue to subsidise parking, we will be using money which could be more useful to help support other public services.

What issues did covid cause?

Covid resulted in a significant loss of income for our car parks.  During lockdowns, with shops forced to shut, our car parks were extremely quiet.  Changing working patterns also mean we get less income as many people are now working at home rather than travelling into work and so use our car parks a lot less.

How did climate change influence our decision?

Tackling climate change is one of our main priorities and we’re aiming for South Oxfordshire to be a carbon neutral district by 2030.  The changes we’re introducing could help to encourage people to consider more sustainable low or no emission forms of transport, such as cycling, walking or using public transport when travelling to our town centres.

What are we doing to improve transport, walking and cycling?

We are supporting those responsible – the county council and other public bodies where we can, to make travel and infrastructure improvements, for example to the Science Vale Cycling Network which is providing a much safer cycling route to work for many people in the district.

These improvements rely on a lot organisations coming together and public funding being made available so do take time to be introduced.  Alongside the other Oxfordshire councils, we are constantly calling on the government to provide the funding necessary to allow public transport and green travel improvements to move forward.

To help reduce emissions, we are also working with the county council to install electric vehicle charging points in our town centre car parks and we have ensured that half price permits will continue to be available for electric vehicles.

How are we supporting local businesses?

Most town centre shops already operate during the current charging period, so changing the time should not impact their trade.

We’ve kept the fee increases very low and parking in South Oxfordshire remains low cost compared to other areas, and we continue to support shoppers and local businesses by providing a free hour for all motorists. This helps to ensure a quick turnaround in our car parks so that space should always be available for people to visit our local shops.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve supported businesses in our district and are now helping to boost trade town centres.  You can find out more information on the work that our South and Vale Business Support team do, and sign up to the events and workshops they’re running via svbs.co.uk.

Won’t the changes just force people to park elsewhere where roads/paths are already congested and cause problems?

It shouldn’t as we’re still offering free parking, our prices are still affordable and competitive compared to others and our car parks are often the nearest to our local shops and restaurants.

If you’re having trouble with on-street parking in your area please see the County Council’s website for details on its new enforcement team cracking down on illegal parking and how to report it.

Could the changes put people off using the car parks and reduce the income further?

We’re still offering an hour’s free parking each day and they’re often the best places to park if you wish to visit our local shops and cafes.

The cost to park for more than an hour remains low compared to elsewhere, so we hope that won’t put any off coming to our town centres.

Permits are available if you work or live in our towns and need to park there throughout the week.

Why is Goldsmiths Lane in Wallingford not included in the changes?

This car park is part-owned by Wallingford Town Council and a private developer and is therefore covered by separate fees and charging period.