Innovative scheme could shake up Southend parking

People may soon be able to park anywhere in Southend for less than £10 in the biggest shake-up of parking in decades.

The innovative system will be known as Southend Pass and it will cost motorists £8.50 each month to park for three-hour periods anywhere in Southend.

The three-hour periods will be unlimited and valid at any on street pay and display, or off-street car park, meaning it will be possible to park in the town centre and then move on elsewhere to somewhere such as Thorpe Bay or Leigh.

Council bosses will discuss the plans at a cabinet meeting next week but if it gets approved it could be in place for a 12-month trial, starting in April 2021.

Councillor Ron Woodley (Ind), has been campaigning for the change for almost three years and said it was time the council “thinks differently” to boost support for businesses.

He said: “If you don’t think differently you go stale and I always want to think differently. I hope that local people will see this as a good deal. They will be able to park anywhere in the town centre to go shopping and then park somewhere else to go for lunch or take a trip to the beach.

“If they want to stay somewhere a bit longer than three hours, all they have to do is top up the metre.

“With the impact of Covid-19, this is needed even more than before. We have to encourage people to go to our local shopping areas and this not only helps the town centre but also our other shopping areas like Leigh, Thorpe Bay or Eastwood.”

People will be asked to pay monthly but Cllr Woodley said they will be expected to enter a 12-month contract.

If the trial is successful, residents may eventually have the option to make a one-off annual payment rather than paying monthly.

A council report published ahead of the cabinet meeting explains several risks with the scheme, including the possibility it will cause the authority to lose £125,000 in its typical parking revenue.

It also states that the £8.50 is only an “introductory” cost.

But Cllr Woodley is optimistic and believes that revenue losses are unlikely as he believes there is strong demand for a new and easy to use system.

He also said he hopes the introductory price does not mean an increase but rather a decrease in future. This will depend entirely on how many people take up the offer.

Councillor Kevin Buck (Con) said: “Anything that helps to encourage more people into Southend and to use all that it has has to offer should be encouraged. We should be looking at alternative ways to do things, whether this will do it is unclear but I guess we need to try.

“My concern is the potential loss of £125,000. We need to keep a close eye on that and we need some information on what will replace it. So far that hasn’t been demonstrated.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter