Sunderland city centre's ‘Free after Three’ parking to be scrapped and charges increased

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Sunderland City Council’s ‘Free after Three’ parking scheme, introduced to encourage footfall into the city centre, could soon be scrapped.

The initiative was introduced to boost Sunderland’s economy and applies to most city centre parking bays, including St Mary’s and Sunniside car parks which have around 1,100 spaces between them.

The new £14million Riverside car park has never been part of the scheme. It has 657 bays, making it the largest in the city.

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Currently, from 3pm to midnight, Monday to Friday, most city centre parking is free.

The scheme could disappear in January 2024. Sunderland Echo image.The scheme could disappear in January 2024. Sunderland Echo image.
The scheme could disappear in January 2024. Sunderland Echo image.

The proposals are outlined in the agenda for the Labour council’s cabinet meeting on Thursday, September 7. If are voted through, changes are expected to be implemented in January 2024.

However, five smaller car parks with approximately 260 parking spaces will continue with the offer. These are Gorse Road in Ashbrooke, Charles Street down from the Echo 24 flats, West Wear Street, Tatham Street and Nile Street.

Also on the agenda is an increase in parking charges.

At present St Mary’s charges £1.50 per hour at the 8am to 3pm peak time on Monday to Saturday. A 10p per hour rise to £1.60 will be applied at 8am to 6pm. All day parking on Sunday increases from £2 to £3.

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St Mary's car park has Safer Parking Award status and is among those affected. Sunderland Echo image.St Mary's car park has Safer Parking Award status and is among those affected. Sunderland Echo image.
St Mary's car park has Safer Parking Award status and is among those affected. Sunderland Echo image.

However, 6pm to 8am parking will remain at 90p per hour 6pm to 8am weekdays at St Mary’s and Sunniside.

The 56-bay Broughton Street car park at the bottom of Durham Road will be free during the same period, while there is no increase to the new Riverside.

The document says the changes are to “actively encourage a modal shift away from the use of private cars towards more sustainable modes of transport, without harming regeneration and the economic activity of the city.”

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It also states that: “Research that has been carried out on the current Free After Three offer in the city centre demonstrates that there is no data to support the view that people are visiting the city centre at 3pm or after to take advantage of business and leisure facilities.”

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But opposition Liberal Democrats have slammed the proposals, saying: “This is a completely idiotic move from Sunderland Council bosses that could well be another nail in the coffin for our city centre.”