City council to turn £140k-a-year Hanley car park into benches
ONE of the city's most popular car parks is to be paved over and have benches put on the site.
Despite income from car parks plummeting, Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to shut Lichfield Street car park, in Hanley.
A new public 'sitting and meeting' area will be created as part of the council's makeover of the city.
The 55-space car park is the city's best-used and most profitable based on spaces, income and maintenance costs.
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It raises more than £140,000 a year, but the authority has confirmed it will soon be pedestrianised.
Income from the car park will be lost, adding to the £339,000 annual shortfall on the £4.2 million that officers expect to raise from car parking and tickets.
It comes after a task group set up to review how the council can boost falling income from its car parks published a series of recommendations on how to attract more motorists.
One-hour parking could be scrapped in the city centre to persuade shoppers to stay in the city centre for longer, as reported by The Sentinel last week.
Councillor Sheila Pitt, pictured right, who was chairman of the task and finish committee for car parking, said: "It's a popular car park, but we are trying to improve the environment in the city centre and the Lichfield Street area will become a nice public meeting space.
"Our aim is to make the city centre a nicer place for visitors. There will still be sufficient spaces available, the popular John Street multi-storey will probably get more use as a result."
Further plans include extending 'cashless' parking across the city. It would allow motorists to pay for parking by mobile phones from anywhere instead of rushing to beat traffic wardens as pay and display tickets expire.
Chip and pin facilities could be added to the most popular car parks at a cost of £62,000 to avoid turning away motorists who have no change .
Theatres and hotels could also be given the support to sell pre-paid parking vouchers to customers and other businesses may be offered the opportunity to set up 'accounts' allowing them to top up parking as part of deals for customers.
Mrs Pitt added: "We are trying to make parking easier for people and for businesses and we've tried to come up with a real mix of ideas."
Many motorists say they prefer to use alternatives including spaces at Tesco.
Alan Joinson, aged 64, from Chelmsford Drive, Bentilee, who is the residents' association chairman, said: "I won't pay to park in Hanley. We already pay a fortune on fuel, tax and insurance. I park further away, walk in and give the cash to charity. I understand that they want people to spend longer in Hanley, but making it a minimum of two hours just puts off people who just want to nip in."