THE COST of parking in Sunderland is to rise next month as council bosses look to rein in a £380,000-plus loss.
Charges in Sunderland City Council car parks and The Bridges will increase by 10p an hour from February 2.
The rise is the first in five years in council car parks and in six years for The Bridges.
It comes after figures released by the RAC Foundation last month revealed the council’s parking operation had run up a £383,000 loss in 2013/14, on top of a £306,000 shortfall the year before.
The council manages 3,584 parking spaces across the city, while The Bridges has a further 940.
New permits are to be introduced allowing regular car park users to cut the cost of parking by up to 65 per cent.
A £1,350-a-year gold permit will allow parking at any of the council-run car parks in the city centre, while a £900-a-year silver permit will cover the Civic Centre, Nile Street, West Wear Street, Charles Street, Tatham Street, Gorse Road and High Street West car parks.
The all-day charge for Sunday will be pegged at £1.50, while parking will be free on Thursdays after 3pm in council-owned car parks and after 5.30pm in The Bridges to support the centre’s new dedicated late night Thursday shopping evenings which begin on January 8.
Coun Michael Mordey, the council’s Portfolio Holder for City Services, said: “These measures – Free After 3 every Thursday, the new tariffs and the new permits – are about helping retail and commercial businesses, helping commuters, and balancing the books,” he said.
“The City Council, in addition, has also to look at road safety, how it can tackle congestion and look to the interests of all highways users.
“While charges have been frozen for more than five years, the decision to increase them is not made lightly and the City Council is committed to reviewing and refreshing its parking strategies.”
The Bridges boss Andy Bradley added: “It has been a very long time since there has been an increase in parking charges at The Bridges.
“We have tried to keep this as low as possible and we still offer good value when compared to other cities and towns around the region.”
Drivers philosophical on parking charges
MOTORISTS in Sunderland city centre were philosophical about the planned rise in parking charges.
“I don’t think people will be much bothered either way,” said 65-year-old Alan Newman, from Houghton.
“I know some people who already park outside the city centre and walk in, but people who are used to parking in the centre will carry on doing so regardless.”
Seventy-three-year-old Peter Curran thought the rise represented pretty good value.
“Ten pence an hour is only about a nine per cent increase,” he said.
“So that’s only about 1.5 per cent a year since the last rise. Inflation is three-and-a-half, four per cent, so that’s not so bad.
“I don’t think it will put people off,” said Peter, of Houghton.
Carole Brown, from Roker, thought the rise may deter some people from coming into the city centre: “I don’t know but considering you can go to the MetroCentre and there is free parking available, it might put people off, I think.”
But Steven Usher, from Seaham, had nothing but praise for the council’s car parks, especially St Mary’s.
“The price rise doesn’t bother me because this is one of the safest car parks you could have,” he said.
“We have got a nice car and I want to keep it that way. I certainly wouldn’t object to an extra 10p an hour.”