A raft of changes to parking tariffs to make Epsom a more attractive destination for shopping and entertainment have been approved by councillors.

At a meeting of Epsom Council’s environment committee last night, January 20, councillors approved a number of changes to car parking prices and times.

A 50p concessionary rate of car parking – three hours for 50p – has been reinstated in Hook Road car park; parking fee for stays of up to one hour at Depot Road and Upper High Street car parks are to be increased from 80p to £1; and the minimum stay at Hook Rood car park is to be increased from one to two hours.

Councillors also gave the green light to a two-tier flat rate of £1 for stays of up to two hours and £2 for stays of more than two hours be applied to Sundays in all of the council’s car parks; and for the Hook Road car park to be opened from 6am until 11pm on Monday to Friday.

Significantly, a maximum charge of £1.50 is to be introduced after 4pm on Mondays to Fridays and after 6pm on Saturdays in The Ashley Centre, Town Hall, Hope Lodge, Depot Road and Upper High Street car parks.

Epsom’s business development manager Adam Worley said the change in evening charges is supported by businesses, with retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Boots and Waitrose having indicated that they would support evening opening hours “with immediate effect”.

Councillor Neil Dallen said: “People park in The Ashley Centre at 12/1pm and stay almost until 3pm.  We want to keep that car park full 24 hours a day. 

"If we can work with the shops and they stay open longer then people will stay longer and it’s a win-win situation.”

Councillor Julie Morris voiced her concerns that the focus of all the discussions were on The Ashley Centre.

She said: “We know we have a situation where different car parks have different levels of usage. 

“All we have been talking about this evening is The Ashley Centre which is at capacity most times. 

“We have forgotten the discussions we have had to get people to use the other car parks. 

"We have other car parks and other parts of this town which need greater footfall than The Ashley Centre does.”

Coun Dallen said the reason why The Ashley Centre was the main point of focus was because late-night parking tends be in that car park.

He added: “If shops are willing to stay open until 7/8pm we want people to go to The Ashley Centre car park.  

"They are not going to park in the Upper High Street to the go to The Ashley Centre.  At the moment we are working on maximising The Ashley Centre car parking in the evenings and we need more things in the town centre to encourage people to stay longer.”

Councillors discussed the cost to the council of the various changes and the risk involved to its budget.

But Coun Morris said that demand for car parking was not an issue: “There are plenty of cars which want to park in this borough, we just have to get them to the right place.”

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Dallen said the council was trying to be more imaginative in boosting Epsom’s offering.

He said: “Some retailers would like later opening but everybody needs to open late and we need to have a reputation for late-night Thursdays, or Fridays, or every day.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do.  We do already have late-night Thursdays in The Ashley Centre but not many shops participate.

“If we had all the shops supporting it and put on other activities in the market square to encourage shoppers to stay late, people will come and the shops will make more money, the town will be more vibrant and the car parks will be used more so for everybody it’s win-win. 

“And if shoppers and residents don’t want it they won’t use it and we’ll think again.”

He said that although discussions have already started with businesses, the approval of the changes to the evening car parking tariffs should enable the idea to be implemented.

Coun Dallen said: “The retailers seem keen to support something like this but there is no commitment from them yet. 

"It is an act of faith in some ways, but it’s not going to happen overnight. 

“We need to see how it goes because it’s about changing people’s habits.  It’s worth a go and will give Epsom an edge over Sutton and Kingston.”

“We are trying to be more imaginative and work with the businesses in the town centre – retailers and others – and trying to maximise everybody’s benefits from it.  

"Hopefully we are moving in the right direction to please everybody.”

In a report submitted to the council’s environment committee at last night’s meeting, Mr Worley said: “Town centres are no longer ‘nine to five’ centres.  Shopping habits have moved on and consumers demand physical premises to be open longer to fit with increased working hours, shift patterns and modern-day lifestyles.  Retailers, town centre businesses and the council need to respond to this change.

“Encouraging businesses to stay open later rebalances the economy, joining the often fragmented night-time economy and encourages families into a town to partake in a wider array of activities, typically not fuelled by alcohol.  This in turn supports the wider business offer of restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theatres and other leisure destinations.” 

What do you think of the car parking charges?  Leave a comment below or email Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk on hmatharu@london.newsquest.co.uk