Agenda item

Car Park Charges Golden Acre and Otley Chevin

To consider the appended report, which recommends support for “the principle of the introduction of modest car park charges at Golden Acre Park and Otley Chevin Forest Park.”


The Chair introduced this item, noting that concern had been raised at the Scrutiny Board’s budget working group in December 2023 about the introduction of car parking charges at Golden Acre and Otley Chevin Forest Parks.


He reiterated that these charges are not part of a new service proposal but were instead categorised as a ‘Business As Usual’ saving in the budget papers submitted to Executive Board.


The Chair informed colleagues that he had received communication from two other Scrutiny Board Chairs on this issue. Concerns had been raised by members of the Adults, Health & Active Lifestyles Scrutiny Board about the potential impact of introducing charges on support for active lifestyles. The Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Board had highlighted concern about the consultation process in their budget discussions.


The Chair highlighted that a report had been published on 2 January 2024 outlining a response to proposals to introduce charges at Golden Acre Park and Otley Chevin Forest Park, following public consultation.


As a Board member, Cllr B Anderson requested that this was brought to the Scrutiny Board for further discussion ahead of comments on the budget proposals being submitted to the Executive Board.


Given the comments on this matter across three Scrutiny Boards, and the timeframes for submitting the joint scrutiny report on the budget to Executive Board, the Chair confirmed that he had agreed to the request to include the report on the agenda for the meeting.


Those in attendance for this item were:


·  Cllr M Rafique (Executive Member, Energy, Environment & Green Space)

·  Cllr D Coupar (Executive member, Resources)

·  James Rogers (Director, Communities, Housing & Environment)

·  Polly Cook (Chief Officer, Climate, Environment & Green Spaces)


The Chair invited Cllr B Anderson to outline his concerns about the proposals and asked the Director to clarify the distinction between ‘Business As Usual’ savings and Service Review proposals.


Cllr Anderson informed colleagues that, while he acknowledged the very challenging circumstances relating to the Council’s budget, he had a several concerns about the proposal to introduce charges at these parks. Those concerns included:


-  Facilities for making cash payments.

-  The availability of an equality impact assessment to enable members to understand how such considerations had informed the proposals.

-  The potential impact of new charges on the Council’s wider ambitions relating to improving the health and well-being of residents.

-  The volume of respondents to the consultation that oppose the charges and the extent to which consideration had been given to those responses.

-  The times during which charges would apply.

-  The nature of the questions posed within the consultation.

-  Displacement of cars onto surrounding roads.


James Rogers provided clarification about the categorisation of savings as either Business As Usual or Service Reviews within the budget papers.


He reassured members that regardless of the categorisation of savings in the budget papers, the same procedures would be followed in relation to consultation and any associated statutory processes.


James informed the Scrutiny Board that it had been agreed in 2023 that the introduction of parking charges at these two sites would be progressed.


He reiterated that the report published on 2 January 2024 is not a key decision. Instead, it is a special operational decision that sets out support in principle for the introduction of charges based on the outcome of previous work. Should there be a further decision to implement charges that would require a key decision.


Provision has been made to introduce Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs), should they be required to manage displaced parking on surrounding roads.


James noted that the Council faces a significant financial challenge and money raised through parking charges would provide a means through which improvements could be delivered in the car parks. Without charging there is unlikely to be funding available to improve these sites.


The Scrutiny Board was informed that other Core Cities already have charges in place at some parks.


It was noted that the consultation asked respondents what they might recommend as an alternative to the charging proposals. Respondents generally suggested costs should be met through efficiencies elsewhere or from existing Council budgets. Analysis has not yet been completed on the responses to the main budget consultation.


Some of the detail being sought by members about the operation of proposed charging schedules cannot yet be provided as further analysis needs to be completed.


Members sought reassurance about the accessibility of the consultation for current park users and were informed that a paper option had been available from the café at Golden Acre Park and local libraries, alongside the online consultation.


Concern was raised about a lack of contextualisation of the questions in the consultation. For example, it was suggested that to fully understand the potential impact on the accessibility and safety of parks, decision makers would need to understand why people use particular modes of transport to visit them.


The Scrutiny Board was assured that there would be an EDI assessment as part of final decision-making process. James highlighted that the approach to equalities in Leeds is highly regarded.


Polly Cook confirmed that the consultation did ask questions about requirements for disabled parking facilities. It was confirmed that ‘Blue Badge’ holders would be exempt from paying car park charges.


A board member raised concern about the standardisation of EDI information captured as part of Council consultations and whether that could sufficiently capture the ‘lived experience’ of those using the parks in question.


The extent to which consultation responses influence decision making was debated, with consideration given to public expectation regarding the impact of engagement with Council consultations.


It was agreed that Cllr Golton would raise general concerns about the approach to EDI within Council consultations with the Chair of the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Board.


The financial challenge facing the Council was reiterated and members highlighted national concerns about funding for local government. 


Members were informed charges would be modest, and it was noted that all of those affected would already be running a car.


Members were assured that the consultation on the expansion of district car parking charges in Wetherby would consider the wider impact of that proposal on the town centre.




a)  Members noted the findings of the report published on 2 January 2024.


b)  Comments regarding the introduction of new parking charges will be captured in the joint Scrutiny report on the budget proposals.


c)  Concern about the approach to capturing EDI information within public consultations will be raised with the Chair of the Strategy & Resources Scrutiny Board.


Supporting documents: