EDDC has listened to traders in Axminster and is proposing to launch a special car parking rate in all its pay and display car parks in the town – starting this month (May).

The move follows the success of an experimental Christmas parking promotion in December 2013, which proved successful in a number of East Devon towns.

Councillor Iain Chubb, EDDC’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “This scheme is an example of EDDC working smarter and engaging with communities.

"We have been working with town representatives to find a mutually acceptable way of supporting town centre economies. We remain open to innovative ideas to support other towns.We are continuing to have talks with the Association of East Devon Chambers of Commerce”.

At a meeting of Cabinet on Wednesday, EDDC Members backed a proposal to trial a promotional offer for up to six months.

Better During the trial period, running from the first available date in May until 31 October, and subject to certain conditions, there will be a tariff of £2 maximum charge for parking after 10am and for the rest of that day in any of EDDC’s pay and display car parks in Axminster.

Councillor Chubb added: “We are implementing this new car parks pricing initiative at the request of Axminster Chamber of Commerce. The trial has been designed to better serve the needs of the town.

“We currently own and operate pay and display car parks in West Street, South Street, Coombe Lane and Poplar Mount in the Town. Whilst Coombe Lane is currently available to residents, visitors and commuters at a low tariff (£1.50 per day), our long stay car parks at West Street and Poplar Mount charge visitors £1 per hour (£3 all day) and our short stay car parks in West Street and South Street charge £1 per hour, right to up a £10 maximum daily charge.

“The Chamber of Commerce have told us that town centre business reported a considerable benefit arising from our Christmas 2013 offer, which capped the maximum daily charge in all car parks to just £2.

That offer was designed to encourage visitors to spend more time (and perhaps money) in the town without having to worry about rushing back to a car park because their pay and display session was about to end”.

The offer started from 10am to avoid any possibility of premium parking spaces designed primarily for visitors and shoppers becoming blocked by people commuting into town to work (or perhaps even worse in Axminster’s case), using the car park as a cheap park-and ride-facility enabling them to take a train to Exeter or even London for the day.

Healthy Councillor Chubb added: “We have looked in some detail at the pattern of use of Axminster’s car parks and, whilst the analysis shows a very healthy rate of turnover of spaces, the average transaction in the main car parks (South Street and West Street short stay) is actually £1.10 and £1.11 respectively. Very few of Axminster’s visitors seem to be tempted to stay longer.

“We have therefore decided to see how motorists react to the £2 cap from 10 am. There is a chance that we will lose revenue but it’s also possible that patterns of parking may change and we could break even.

"There are some unknown quantities here, but we think it is worth testing the water and finding out if a summer offer helps the town’s traders without having a negative impact on the income that we need in order to maintain and improve not just car parks but other district amenities”.

EDDC will monitor usage and reserves the right to withdraw the offer before the closing date if car parks become unduly congested with cars parked by people abusing the spirit of the new system.