FREE for all parking looks likely to be coming to Garstang’s Windsor Road car park within the next few weeks.
It will mean an end to the controversial “two systems” charging regime at the car park, which has had motorists scratching their heads for the past few months.
Booths is understood to have long wanted free parking throughout the car park surrounding its new store, but complex land ownership issues resulted in the two-tier parking regime being introduced – with motorists being charged to park on the land in Wyre Council’s ownership, but being allowed to park free of charge on the larger area in Booths’ ownership.
The two charging regimes on the same car park has led to motorists, particularly visitors to the town, being left puzzled about the ‘invisible barrier’ between the pay for and free areas of the car park.
Now, in an effort to resolve the issue, Wyre Council is recommending a ‘land swap’ deal, which could see the part of the car park in its ownership (in front of the sports centre) exchanged for Booths-owned land behind the sports centre (the future of which is currently under review).
A secret report, to be considered in private at a meeting of Wyre’s cabinet tonight, has been kept under wraps.
However, the Courier understands it explains the area of land which Booths would swap for Wyre’s land, would then be ‘leased back’ to Booths by Wyre Council.
It is understood that Booths, would then bring in a free of charge policy throughout the WHOLE car park, re-imbursing the council for the many thousands of pounds the authority will lose from parking fees.
The land wrangle became public last autumn when Booths, to the delight of the public, brought in a free parking car park.
Wyre Council leader Coun Peter Gibson said: “Negotiations with Booths are ongoing and I expect a decision to be made this month. It has taken some time to obtain land evaluations, but we have these and I’m hopeful of reaching a successful outcome.”
The council has declined to release copies of the confidential report to tonight’s meeting. An email was sent last week to councillors and officers reminding them of the ‘not for publication policy’.
The fact the land which the council hopes to receive from Booths is behind Garstang Leisure Centre, the future of which is currently uncertain, is thought likely to add to the council’s desire for the issue to be dealt with without any public controversy.
No details have been released on how long the proposed ‘leaseback’ land deal would last, or if it has any connection with the current controversy over the future of the leisure centre itself.
l See Comment: Page 6