ABERGAVENNY’S Morrisons store has brought more benefits to the town than were expected – despite leading to losses in car parking income – it has been claimed.
Free parking at the store contributed to the council losing £275,000 in the last financial year, with the loss in potential parking income estimated at £2,000 each week.
The two hours free parking offered is undercutting the council’s pay and display car parks in Abergavenny.
Council bosses have also blamed the shortfall on the closure of two car parks in Abergavenny and Monmouth, both of which have since reopened.
An increase in parking charges was also not introduced until July, meaning a full year of higher fees were not recouped.
But Councillor Bob Greenland, cabinet member for Innovation, Enterprise and Leisure, said losses in parking income were always expected when the supermarket opened in March of last year.
Councillor Greenland told cabinet colleagues on Wednesday the council recognised “from the outset” that people would opt to use Morrisons over existing local authority owned car parks which charge.
“It was anticipated from the very beginning that we would get a drop off in car parking when Morrisons moved in,” he said.
However, Councillor Greenland claimed the benefits of the new store have outweighed any costs – and exceeded expectations.
The supermarket is said to have created more than its original estimate of 150 jobs due to “over trading” in the area.
And against expectations, Councillor Greenland said footfall has increased and the number of vacant units has gone down in the town since the store opening.
“When you put all of these into the mix we’ve got a very good investment for a possible reduction in car parking revenue,” he added.
However, Councillor Frances Taylor, leader of the council’s Independent group, questioned what the net gain is against a “significant deficit” in losses to parking income.
Conservative councillor Jane Pratt said time was needed to evaluate the issue though, as figures could change with the council taking over parking enforcement.
“I think people are going to be using the car parks a lot more because of the civil parking enforcement,” she added.
During negotiations Morrisons had initially been asked to apply the council’s charges for its 223-space car park.
But this requirement was removed in favour of a larger payment for the land, with the final deal being struck for £13.75 million up front and £4 million spread over 25 years.