By Niamh Anderson
SCROOGE tram bosses in Edinburgh have refused to help out traders and shoppers by providing free parking at Christmas.
The new body set up by the council to supervise the troubled project is spending part of its £335,000 annual budget on “events and promotions” in and around Princes Street.
But traders are angry that the Tram Association Group (TAG) is refusing to suspend parking fees on week nights and Saturday afternoons.
Shops claim the seasonal stinginess will cost them £70,000 in lost revenue – on top of the fortune lost as a direct result of the tram works.
Free parking was first introduced in 2005 and became part of the “Open for Business” initiative, which is now led by TAG.
Graham Birse, managing director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have a wonderful opportunity with the closure of Princes Street, and the works discontinuing, to use Princes Street as a platform for events and promotions. Part of that could have been parking being waived or reduced.”
Motorists had been offered the opportunity to park for free from the earlier time of 5.30pm on weekdays and from 1pm on Saturdays for five successive years before the promotion was dropped last year after the council refused to step in to pick up the cost of lost revenue.
The council has not yet made a final decision on whether it will step in to fund the promotion this year, although there are no plans imminent to ask councillors to approve such a scheme.
The scheme, which initially ran from November 1 onwards before being moved back to only the four weeks before Christmas in 2009, was said to have provided a welcome boost to businesses as they fought competition from out-of-town shopping centres and the perception that the city centre was closed to traffic due to tram work.
Business had campaigned for it to be reintroduced this year as part of the TAG proposals but have now been told it will not return.
Gordon Henderson, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in the east of Scotland, said: “It is a disappointment but I would now urge the council to make the best use of the parking they do have.”
The city council spent around £1.5million in lost parking revenue because parking enforcers were often unable to dish out fines on cars without a ticket during the bad weather last year.
A council spokesman said: “The council is still considering the option of a Christmas parking promotion. Seperately, TAG is developing a programme of on-street activity to run over the festive period.”