Plans by Tesco to fine people who don’t spend £3 or more when they park at its Swansea Marina superstore for more than half an hour have been rejected.
The supermarket said more people were parking at the superstore but then shopping elsewhere in the city centre, affecting its trading performance.
Currently, customers can leave their cars for free for two hours at the camera-controlled car park, but don’t have to buy anything in the store.
Tesco wanted a new arrangement, involving new automatic number plate recognition cameras, whereby customers could still park for two hours but only if they spent at least £3 in the store.
Those who didn’t would be fined £70, reduced to £42 if paid within 14 days, but this wouldn’t apply to parking stays of half an hour or less.
Customers would prove they’d spent more than £3 with vouchers given to them at the till, which they would then scan into new car park terminals.
Tesco’s planning application to Swansea Council included a cover letter which said the new system would ensure a greater turnover of parking for shoppers to visit both the store and shops in the city centre.
Council planning officers said in a report that “large numbers of parking spaces were always available and traffic was flowing well” at the car park, based on a number of site visits.
Supplementary information from Tesco said the car park reached 98% occupancy on the busiest day of the week and regularly exceeded 80% occupancy on most days, more than its preferred 75% figure to allow for “good circulation”.
It said the car park was coming under more pressure, particularly between 10am and 2pm, but that this did not tally with store turnover data.
Tesco also contended that the new system would encourage visitors to the new Swansea indoor arena to use council car parks rather than putting more pressure on its superstore.
When the council gave the go-ahead for superstore in 1999, the use of the car park as an ancillary car park for city centre shoppers was integral to its acceptability.
The planning approval included a car park management condition, to be reviewed every two years.
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Rejecting Tesco’s latest application, a planning officer report said: “Whilst the concerns raised have been noted regarding loss of trade and problems regarding turnover of parking, it is considered that the proposals are unnecessary and would be confusing to both Tesco shoppers and other users.
“Given the current Covid pandemic it is unclear how there is a significant issue given that overall reduction in traffic on the roads and subsequent reduction in visits to the store.
“The current regime works well and is a fair balance between Tesco shoppers and non-shoppers alike.”
Tesco, which can appeal the decision, has been asked to comment.