Radical plans to revolutionise car parking in Canterbury City Centre and revamp key historic thoroughfares can today be revealed.
Council chiefs vow there will be NO net reduction in the total number of spaces available to Canterbury’s motorists.
But charges will be bumped up as innovative technology is rolled out to read drivers’ number plates and trigger automatic barriers at every car park.
Cash raised will help fund a series of ‘streetscene’ enhancements on major pedestrian routes within the city walls to match the King’s Mile improvement scheme in Palace Street and Northgate.
Canterbury City Council proposes:
Expansion of Station Road West car park with a new deck – possibly two – to increase capacity by at least 140 spaces.
Axing 140 spaces elsewhere with Rosemary Lane and Hawks Lane car parks set to be sold off to housing developers, together with a section of Longport car park.
Officers admit hourly rates at city centre car parks will creep up in the coming four years.
But extra cash in the pot will pay towards pedestrian improvements in Orange Street, Best Lane, The Friars, St George’s Street and Castle Street.
The authority’s chief insists the plans are not geared to generate revenue but are aimed at making the city a better place to visit.
Council leader Simon Cook said: “Income will be ploughed into making our parking, our transport, our city a much more user friendly place.”
Mr Cook said cutting edge ANPR technology will be brought in at all city centre car parks.
Drivers will only be charged for the time they spend in the car park and will have the option of setting up an account online.
“Ultimately we would want people to be able to park without needing to approach the machine,” he said.
“In the short-term you’ll still be able to pay with cash at the end of your stay.”
A council spokesman later clarified there was no intention to phase out the option of cash payment "in the foreseeable future".
Cllr Cook and council chief executive Colin Carmichael both stressed how the new system would revolutionise the way the city’s car parks are run.
Capacity could be closely monitored with drivers directed to vacant spaces via automated roadside signage.
Motorists could even pre-book a space in a chosen car park online, he said.
“This is at the forefront of what a council can do about its parking,” said Cllr Cook.
Canterbury City Council had come under fire after the previous administration proposed axing swathes of the city centre parking spaces amounting to a 20% loss.
Mr Carmichael said: “We’ve managed to find a way through this which I think works.”
The proposals will be considered by the administration’s policy and resources committee next week before being put to public consultation.
Cllr Cook said: “We’re not planning this behind a curtain to later produce it as a finished product.
“We want to know what people think.”