Blue badge holders can now park for free in Cherwell District Council-owned car parks following the appointment of a new contractor tasked with improving facilities in the area.
From 1 June, national car park operator APCOA took responsibility for the management of the council’s 27 car parks in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington following a review of its existing facilities.
The transfer of management will now enable blue badge holders to park for free in any bay and will preserve the future of free parking promotions such as Small Business Saturday and Free After Three.
Cllr George Reynolds, Cherwell’s deputy leader, said: “We have reviewed feedback from users about existing car park facilities and have appointed APCOA to deliver a series of measures to improve the parking experience for customers. To begin with, this will focus on offering free parking for all blue badge holders and securing various free parking promotions for other drivers.
“We know that lots of people would like us to offer free parking all year round but at the moment it is not financially viable. The loss of income we would receive would impact on the provision of other services and threaten our council tax rates which have remained frozen and unchanged since 2009.
“Instead, we are looking to offer the free parking promotions we can afford to offer and APCOA will be looking to introduce various measures later in the year to improve car parking facilities for all customers.”
APCOA has installed new signage in Cherwell-owned car parks and agreed to waive parking fees for all blue badge holders who adhere to the permitted timescales. Car parking charges will remain unchanged for all other motorists with the exception of any parking promotions which have been retained as part of the contract with APCOA.
These include the annual free parking promotion for Small Business Saturday which takes place on the first Saturday in December and a ‘Free After Three’ promotion for one month of the year (yet to be determined) to allow drivers to park for free after 3pm.
Later this year, APCOA will focus on improving car parking facilities for all customers by installing new machinery offering increased payment options for customer convenience. People will still be able to pay using coins or over the telephone but will be given additional payment options of contactless, chip and pin, Apple Pay or online payments.
Some car parks will also be reconfigured to allow customers to pay on exit. This means customers will only pay for the time they actually park and will enable them to visit the surrounding areas without a predetermined time restriction.