THE council is planning on scrapping nearly 500 car parking spaces across the town when it buys a new £15m car park.

The council is set to purchase the as-yet unbuilt 850-space car park on the site of the old police station in the town centre, next to Whale-bridge roundabout.

It said the move was essential for keeping down car parking prices and, in as little as a decade, it would become a money-spinner.

But the new car park would mean that 466 spaces across the town would go.

There are 4,466 car park spaces in the town centre, but based on occupancy data, it is recommended that the council should manage this number down to no more than 4,000 spaces.

Over the longer term, the council will be looking to manage the number of unsuitable car Parks down even further, replacing them with new high-quality facilities within future regeneration schemes.

Council officers are working on on the details of which car parks should be closed and these options will be consulted on with stakeholders before bringing recommendations to cabinet.

Conservative councillor Garry Perkins (Shaw and Nine Elms), said that the purchase of the new car park was an investment.

He said: “Our policy is to maintain ownership of all car parks in Swindon, so we can maintain competitive pricing.

“We have control of car parks, therefore, we dropped the cost of four hours of parking down to £2.

“It would make sense, if we have ownership of other car parks, to take ownership of that one to maintain strategic control of the cost of car parking in town.There is a pay back; it is an initial investment – we will get that money back.”

The new car park will be used to accommodate up to 3,500 office workers in the planned Union Square development with some of the lesser-used car parks going.

But Mark Dempsey (Lab, Parks), the vice-chairman of the committee and regeneration chief in the shadow cabinet, questioned if the council should be focusing on car parks.

He said: “For us the problem is funding, using public money to pay for car parks.

“What is done with the surplus car parks has got to be part of the new master plan and there needs to be consultation with the local community and the provision of public spaces.

“We said about creating a master plan for regeneration a year ago and had Swindon council produced one then the town would be in a much better place now.”