SUNDERLAND’S parking regime is going under the microscope as council bosses try to open up the city for business.
Parking in the heart of the city has been one of the main issues raised by members of the Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association since it was founded two years ago.
Now, council bosses are to carry out a review of parking and loading restrictions across the whole city centre for the first time in years.
Sunderland City Council’s network operations manager, Paul Lewins, said the challenge was to open up the city as much as possible while keeping roads safe and traffic flowing.
“It’s not just about providing parking spaces. It’s about looking at some of the other loading restrictions that are in place and striking a balance between all the city’s road users, not just the businesses.
“We have spare capacity in our car parks. They are not full. We have to look very carefully at where we want traffic to be.
“I think it’s probably the case that in the past we have been demand-led. We actually need to be more proactive.
“Some of the restrictions have been in place for many years. The town is different now.”
Some traders have pushed for free on-street parking, but there is no guarantee that would attract more business, according to Mr Lewins.
“One thing we have to be careful of is that people in general like to park as close as possible to where their place of business is,” he said.
“This is why we have pay-and-display. It could be that making those places free means workers will park there all day because they want to be close, so it about trying to establish that balance.”
Parking measures in the city centre had been drawn up as and when needed, but the review will look at the whole picture, he said.
The review will start in October and is expected to take two months, and any changes proposed as a result of it will go through a full consultation process.
Mr Lewins added: “Whatever we put forward, we will be more than willing to discuss our reasoning.
“The public and business will have the opportunity to comment, and those comments will be taken to the highways and planning committee and put before the elected members.” Coun Michael Mordey, the council’s portfolio holder for city services, said: “Parking in Sunderland is about road safety, reducing congestion in the interests of all highways users, plus supporting economic activity across the city.
“These factors, along with other circumstances, can all change over the years, and this is why the council has been reviewing and looking to update and refresh parking arrangements.”
Traders’ association chairman Harry Collinson said businesses were concerned about loading times and parking for customers.
“It is difficult enough running your own business without having to worry about customers being harassed or not being able to make deliveries,” he said.
“It is flexibility that businesses are looking for.
“They should be able to go about their business as easily as possible.”