The great Ashbourne parking debate


The great Ashbourne parking debate

Car parks in Ashbourne are a subject of hot debate across the town, with many strongly-held views and a few frustrations.....

Ashbourne Town Team
May 29, 2023
May 29, 2023


Who runs the car parks?

Ashbourne has a mixture of Derbyshire Dales District Council car parks, roadside parking and private car parks, as per this handy printable list.

It's the DDDC car parks that get people hot under the collar.....

Don't get us wrong - we are great friends with DDDC, who are doing an amazing job with Ashbourne Reborn. But best friends can offer criticism as well as praise, and on car parks there is definitely room for improvement.

What are the issues?


Like many towns, Ashbourne has a one way system and it can be tricky for visitors to find their way around. Some car parks are poorly sign-posted from the main roads and are unclear as to long stay v short stay. Some car parks are under-used whilst others struggle for space. Better signage is badly needed.

Pay & display v pay on exit

Its difficult to relax whilst getting your hair cut, having a bite to eat and doing some leisurely shopping, if you are worrying about your car park.

Pay and display means deciding up-front how long you need. This can be tricky for locals and even more so for visitors. Opting for less time on the ticket means less time to spend in our shops and cafes and explore our streets and alleyways.

Pay on exit would solve this problem. DDDC says it can't be done, but they won't explain why not.

Long-stay v short-stay

There is plenty of short stay parking in Ashbourne town centre, with one hour for roadside parking, two hours in the Market Place & Sainsburys and four hours in Shawcroft.

But there is much less long stay parking. So visitors tend to stay for half a day max, or even just a couple of hours.

We would like to see Shawcroft made into a long-stay car park.

Unified charging structure

DDDC sets a one-size-fits-all parking policy across the whole district, so the tourist honeypot of Bakewell has the same charges as Ashbourne.

We think different areas should be charged differently, according to local needs and circumstances.


Ashbourne is in competition with Derby, Leek, Belper and Uttoxeter, all of which have cheaper parking. Ashbourne town centre is also in competition with the Waterside retail park, where parking is free.

Derbyshire Dales residents get free parking early and late, which is helpful, but not everyone is able to shop at these times. Also Ashbourne sits on the Staffordshire border, so many local residents do not qualify.

We know town centre parking can't all be free all the time - the council has to cover its costs. But prices need to be set mindfully, to meet the needs of local people and local businesses.

Payment methods

Pay by phone requires the customer to have a smart phone and the signal to be good. Pay by cash requires a working machine and a customer with spare change.

Neither are ideal but the choice should be sufficient, if they work. But often they don't and we have many reports of frustrated parkers giving up trying to pay and leaving.

Note that pay by card is no longer offered.

Motorhome parking

There are no dedicated motorhome spaces in Ashbourne, though there are places if you know where to look.

The coach park has five spaces that often lie empty and could easily be used for motorhomes as well, with a simple change to the rules & regs.....

Overflow parking

The overflow car-park near to Shawcroft, is kept locked and closed, even when town is full of visitors. We would like responsible local keyholders to be appointed, so it can be easily opened up when the need is there.

Is anything happening?

DDDC is carrying out a car parking review, largely because of the Town Team's continued pressure on this topic, but there is scant sign of any of the above points being addressed.

A little investment and thought would reap huge benefits for businesses and shoppers alike. More long stay parking, pay on exit, fixing the machines so that they work, opening up the overflow car park, better signage and provision of motorhome spaces, would collectively be an enormous improvement.

We'd like as well to explore the scope to reduce charges and maintain revenues and we would love to assist DDDC with this analysis.....

  • Lower charges might increase demand.
  • Flexible pricing across the region might allow higher charges in Bakewell to offset reduced charges in Ashbourne.
  • Pay on exit would encourage people to stay for longer.

Raising revenues via car parking charges?

We have no data on whether or not DDDC runs a revenue-raising surplus on car parks. But publicity on this topic gives the impression that they do.

We don't make any claim to be legal experts, but it doesn't take any expertise to find a lot of debate on the internet, around whether revenue-raising via car parks is illegal.

It's obviously OK for parking charges to offset all direct costs of running the parking service and also to cover a fair allocation of the indirect costs of running the council. It's also OK to aim for a small surplus to smooth out the inevitable peaks and troughs.

But internet forums tell us that there is s strong argument for illegality if income consistently does more than cover costs. This is because car park charging powers are not part of fiscal or taxation law, and therefore cannot be used to generally raise revenues. Alas, this legitimacy question will remain uncertain, until and if it ever gets tested in the courts.

What can you do to help?

Make your voce heard and complain, complain again and complain some more! Every time the machine does not work, tell the council.


Phone 01629 761333.

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