No more FREE parking for event organisers in Weymouth

car park

Published at 8:22am 7th December 2018. (Updated at 10:13am 7th December 2018)

FREE parking permits for event organisers in Weymouth are to stop at the end of the month.

But there is doubt over what will happen to concessionary places for RNLI crew and voluteers for the Samaritans and Citizens Advice Bureau.

Their agreements are likely to be decided by the new Dorset Council after April.

An investigation shows that the borough council currently agrees almost £40,000 a year in complimentary parking spaces to organisations which run events, or volunteer, in and around the town.

Weymouth Town Centre

A borough council spokesman says that ‘event’ concessionary spaces will cease at the end of December in line with a policy agreed in March.

After April the town’s car parks are expected be taken over by the new Dorset Council which has yet to take a decision about whether or not to support concessionary parking.

A spokesman for the new council said: “All Weymouth pay and display car parks are proposed to transfer to Dorset Council. We are not aware that Shadow Executive has a policy on car parking concessions yet. All of the permits form part of the Off Street Parking Places order for the borough. In order to make changes to this order we would have to gain committee approval first and then change it under a variation notice.”

A list prepared for councillors for a borough council management committee meeting on December 11th shows that the cost of the free permits varies from £24 to £1,120 each time an event is staged. These amounted to just under £10,000 in total for 2018.

The most generous single event parking allowances goes to the longer running events – Weymouth Speed Week and the International Angling event, both in October, and both getting 20 free spaces at the Pavilion at a cost of £1,120 each over the course of a week. The policy makes no distinction over whether events are charitable or commercial.

Other events to receive 20 free spaces include Weymouth Walkies, the Colour Run, Weymouth Regatta, Fayre in the Square, the Wessex Folk Festival, the half marathon, model powerboat racing and the Dorset seafood festival.

The biggest single recipient of free spaces, 30 permits, is for the Mayor’s Civic Day held this year in July when the borough is visited by other mayors from across Dorset.

In addition there are permanent concessionary permits issued to organisations such as the Samaritans, RNLI and Citizens Advice Bureau, which would cost almost £29,000 a year if they all had to be paid for.

The special arrangements result in the CAB getting 10 free permits for the Swannery Car Park; the RNLI being charged £546 for 40 permits for lifeboat crew on active duty, valid only in Nothe car park; and the Samaritans, which runs a 24-hour, 365-day service, paying for 2 permits at £546 each but being issued with 20 permits.

Swannery Car Park Weymouth

The Swanherd is also issued with a free permit for Swannery Car Park.

Said the report: “Each of these 53 permits would normally be charged at £546 per annum bringing in a potential revenue of £28,938 to the Borough Council however it is unlikely that if we charged these volunteers this amount that they would purchase that number of permits.”

A report to the borough council’s management committee says that no formal study has been undertaken to quantify the benefits of the free permits: “There is no policy in place to differentiate between the types or duration of events being held so permits have been issued to the organisers on request up to a maximum of 20 permits with the exception of the Mayors civic day when 30 permits were issued. Whilst it is appreciated that these events may bring visitors into the town there has been no formal monitoring in place to evaluate the number of visitors who attended each event, whether the event is charitable or income generating or how it impacts on fee generating car park spaces.”

At the last management committee meeting Cllr Kate Wheller called for the concessionary parking policy to be continued by the new Dorset Council, claiming that it encourages volunteers to give their time to help in the community.

The borough says that event organisations were warned in March to prepare for the end of the concessionary parking policy at the end of December.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter

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