Delivering good service

Easy navigation and movement helps people do business. It creates a good first impression for those coming to the town as visitors. Provision of good quality information and guidance on parking makes finding parking suitable for the user’s particular needs easy. It also enables the choice of car park used, and the route taken to it, to be managed in the wider interests of the town and county.

Not only will physical signage be developed, but the process to ensure that web-based information and data provided to third party navigation systems remains current and appropriate, will be reviewed. This will include options to prepare these channels to reflect actual conditions in real-time, allowing car park guidance and routing to be changed as part of a wider process of managing congestion, air quality and car park occupancy.

Providing easy wayfinding, interesting and attractive routes to the destinations reached from the car parks will also form part of the strategy to successfully relocate some parking capacity away from the town centre. 

The reason people come to town, and how they spend their time, has changed. The town centre is becoming less of a destination to buy commodities and more of a place to spend time, browse, socialise, be entertained and partake in leisure activities. Surveys in market towns in North Yorkshire have indicated that around one in five visitors were curtailing their stay in the town because of parking time limits. Indications from Harrogate are that visitors now able to pay for their off-street parking on return, rather than in advance using pay and display, are staying around 22 minutes longer. Major shopping centres utilise pay on foot, at the end of the shopping trip, as part of their customer offer.

Systems and options that are transforming the way people can pay for their parking in a more convenient and less restrictive way are already in use in many UK towns. Colchester will seek to provide options across the town for drivers to access various methods to pay for their parking, including cash, card or account.

The facility to extend a stay remotely, pay on return to the vehicle, along with existing pay and display options will be provided. Automated systems and ‘trusted customer’ accounts will negate the requirement to buy a ticket, remove any restriction or concern about penalty charges, and take away the need to make any payment at the point of use. Such options will also enable users to opt-in to promotions or parking rebates offered by retailers and other commercial destinations. The systems available offer a day charge cap similar to that applied by users of Oyster in London. Charges applied at the end, or subsequent to the many parking events, can be ‘capped’, adjusted, or rebated, based on promotional rules and a user’s cumulative activity over a period of time. 

Requirements for parking differ between users and their needs. Colchester will look to adopt different standards and minimum expectations from car parks similar to the gold, silver and bronze grading adopted by Cornwall.

One of the improvements in the higher tier parking areas will be wider bays. Destinations are chosen because of what the town has to offer and its proximity to the origin; parking costs are a secondary consideration. It is not the case that parking charges are driving users onto internet shopping.

It is the availability, and certainty of finding a space, rather than its cost, that is most important to users. Some cities have successfully embodied a process to adjust parking time limits and charges to deliver a desired level of availability. These aspects are set locally for each car park, based on historic levels of utilisation, so that there is always a space to park.

While this may mean that popular car parks become more expensive, alternative lower cost options will be available for those on a budget. Users will be able to choose where they wish to park, based on cost, location and service, and be generally assured that they will be able to do so.

This approach removes the frustration, inefficiency and unreliability to people’s schedules arising from a system in which car parks are frequently full. As we have now, the parking tariff may be set and established in advance, to operate at different levels on different days and times to best manage use, and reflect the requirements of different customers. Additional short stay tariffs will be available in car parks otherwise intended for long stay use and the use of maximum stays will be replaced with escalating tariffs. These will not prevent longer stays; an extended stay in a particular place may be very important to that user on that occasion, but will be designed to discourage long stays in car parks demarcated for shorter visits.

Page last reviewed: 15 May 2023