COUNCILLORS are to be faced with three options to settle the debate over plans to introduce car parking charges in North Ayrshire - and one of the options is to scrap the proposal altogether.

Papers prepared for a North Ayrshire Council cabinet meeting next Tuesday (January 24) reveal that the plans could be shelved if members reach a consensus.

However, the report warns lost income from the failure to bring in fees will mean that an alternative source of revenue funding - or additional savings - will need to be identified to address a budget shortfall of more than £600,000 if the plans are dumped.

North Ayrshire Council will set its budget for 2023/24 on March 1.

Decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) - with authority passing from police to the council - was first proposed for the whole of North Ayrshire in June 2019, and backed by the full council in September of that year, before the Covid pandemic put the plans on hold.

In March 2022, the council approved tariffs of £1.50 for one hour, £2 for two hours and £3.50 for four hours for 10 short-stay car parks.

But it was later agreed to reconsider the level of charges proposed “in light of the deepening financial crisis”.

Seven new jobs, including six parking attendants, would be created if the plans go ahead - and it is anticipated that around £300,000 per year would be added to the council's coffers if the plan is implemented.

Three town centre car parks in Irvine will be affected should the plans gain approval (Kirkgate, West Road and East Road), while Almswell Road and Oxenward in Kilwinning will also be subject to charges.

In Saltcoats, council chiefs have recommended removing Bradshaw Street from the list, meaning only Vernon Street, Windmill Street and Kirkgate will be affected.

Gateside Street in Largs is also included.

The charges would apply between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, for Irvine, Kilwinning and Saltcoats.

Resident parking permits would be introduced for residents of Hill Street in Irvine and Almswall Road in Kilwinning, with the first permit free of charge and any additional permits costing £100.

The three options that will be considered next week are:

- going ahead with the tariffs agreed in March 2022 (outlined above);

- setting lower tariffs of £1 for one hour or £3.50 for up to four hours;

- not introducing parking charges at all.

Members will also discuss whether or not to make the first hour of parking free.

Three public petitions against the plans were submitted to the local authority towards the end of last year as businesses and residents urged the council to 'save our town centres'.

Thousands added their support with local traders claiming the charges would drive away shoppers and seriously hamper earnings during an already turbulent time.

The council paper prepared for next week's meeting states: "There are many benefits of DPE and a key desired outcome of introducing DPE and parking charges is an improved regulation of traffic in our town centres, by directing long stay patrons to free parking slightly further out whilst providing chargeable and short stay parking close to retail and other town centre services.

"This is aimed at creating more turnover of parking spaces and improved availability and access for people to get a parking space in town centres, thereby improving opportunities and ease of access to local business premises.

"The introduction of these measures also aligns with national transport policy by encouraging more active and sustainable modes of transport."

The plans could be introduced later this year - but more than 40 other car parks across North Ayrshire will remain free of charge.