/ Money, Motoring

Your view: are parking charges killing our high streets?

Empty shop on high street

This week we invited Louise Ellman of the Transport Select Committee to start a discussion about parking charges in local town centres. So do they put you off shopping locally?

As the Chair of the Transport Committee in the House of Commons, Louise Ellman is keen to canvas your views on whether parking enforcement are killing our high streets.

The anecdotes soon started pouring in, with many of you explaining how parking charges have had dramatic effects on your local shopping areas.

William says this has been happening for a long time in his area:

‘I used to shop in my local town centre once a week, I used to park in local side roads. Then one day the council made all side roads pay and display. Not to worry you just park further out, but wait they were all pay and display too. So I stopped going. That was about 15 years ago. I now visit the town centre once or twice a year if that.’

Crankyacid tries to see how things could be done differently:

‘Imagine if your town, instead of installing parking meters, had improved pavements and made walking and cycling about more pleasant. Perhaps you would then have been tempted to visit from time to time. Maybe you would have used the opportunity to shop at somewhere independent so you had a bit of variety. You certainly would enjoy the savings to be made from using a local grocer for fruit and veg compared to a supermarket.’

Should parking be free?

Steve thinks this particular question is a no-brainer:

‘If parking was free, or a very nominal amount payable to combat abuse of the system, shoppers would flock to town centres. It’s as if councils aren’t aware that consumers now have a free alternative place to shop in their living rooms. Mary Portas isn’t the answer to everything! Try common sense once in a while.’

Figgerty says that even a bit of free parking would help:

‘My local council at one time had free parking on Sundays, this brought much needed business to our shops and allowed us to spend more time shopping without worrying about parking time.’

Carol doesn’t mind paying if she gets value for money:

‘If I can find what I want in the town centre I don’t mind paying the parking charges as I am getting a service, and expect to pay for the services I receive. However if the car park is poorly lit, dirty and smelly, which the council operated car park is, then I will not use it as my experience is not a good one.’

For Vynor Hill, parking needs to be convenient:

‘Driving in, one has to make sure there are coins in the pocket sufficient for the car parks where the machines have minds of their own. This is similar to a gnat bite, not major in itself, but annoying enough to make one think twice about going into town.’

Let’s make high streets more pleasant

For many, the reason they have abandoned their high street is because it lacks appeal. Jason says we need to focus on reducing cars to make it a more pleasant experience:

‘The worst thing to happen to our high streets is the dominance of the private car. You can’t move on the pavements or cross the road without being in serious danger – how safe do you feel taking your kids with you? And the noise and air quality is not something to be desired.’

Farnie believes that high streets need to become ‘destinations’:

‘When will people start valuing their space? Competing with shopping centres where parking is free will never work. The idea is doomed to fail. We need to work on making high streets places people want to be. Real destinations. The local crematorium is free, but it doesn’t mean I want to go there.’

Incentives for cyclists?

And many cyclists would like to see better access and incentives for those travelling by bike, like Fred:

‘I would like to be able to cycle rather than drive to my local shops. Unfortunately, there are no good (safe) bike routes in the town – and, the council has just decided not to fund any further cycling proposals. Bikes are a great way to make short shopping journeys – they take up much less road and parking space than cars, they don’t pollute, they reduce congestion.’

Gazza_d has more success cycling to his shops but thinks he should get recognition for it:

‘I cycle to my local shops as much as I possibly can as most of the time it’s quicker and a lot less hassle than driving and looking for a space.

‘When parking is provided free though, then I am effectively subsidising those car drivers as the cost of the land and car park maintenance is built into the shopping I buy. People riding bikes should receive a discount.’

Do any of these views ring true for you? As Louise explained in her Conversation:

‘I’m keen to hear directly from consumers because our Committee is in the middle of an inquiry into local authority parking enforcement. Comments from you will help to inform the questions we put to representatives of local authorities, the parking adjudicators, and the Department for Transport Minister on 8 July.’

So this is your chance to have your say – and for it to be listened to…

Comments
Member

I resent having to pay large parking charges when visiting a town – whether shopping or leisure. The town will benefit from my custom – so the businesses should shoulder the cost of parking. I also resent not having a short period of free parking, if I just want to buy a paper or collect something from a shop for example.
But what really infuriates me is the extortionate penalty charges imposed if you overstay your time – sometimes for unavoidable reasons, sometimes for sheer forgetfullness. The charges should be sensible to deter the abusers, but not excessive. £5 would be a quite adequate charge. Scrap penalties for not paying in a short time – why should we be penalised more? There should be no need for an appeals process for such trivial offences as parking if the penalty was reasonable – it just adds uneccessary beaurocracy (or perhaps the intention is to keep people employed?).

Member

I agree that there should be a short period of free parking, and that could be allowed anywhere in the vicinity of shops, cash dispensers, etc.

It would be good to reduce bureaucracy but a £5 fine is not likely to be a sufficient deterrent. It is likely to be seen as ‘worth the risk’ like using mobile phones when driving. I am certainly not trying to defend extortionate charges for overstaying, and would suggest trying a charge of something like £20.

Member
Ben says:
29 June 2013

I totally agree, parking charges deter me from shopping in town centre and furthermore the ridiculous minimum charge of now £ 1.10 is a complete racket as you have to pay should you have to collect a parcel from our local Post Office.If you don’t pay for the 5 minutes it takes to collect the parcel you run the risk of some person in a funny hat and a scruffy uniform fining you £ 40.00

Member
Vulpes Expeditus says:
29 June 2013

I live in a small commuter town, so it is important to enforce strict parking controls or we would no be able to move for parked cars. However these rules should be totally relaxed after say 1500hrs so then people could visit the shops easily and not be hounded when the schools come out and you need something quickly.
This would also benefit commuters as they could visit the high street themselves when they get home.
The local Council has still to respond to my suggestion.

Member

We have the same problem in our village – caused by the station car park charging £5 a day when you travel by train! So the roads local to the station have no parking untill 11.00 a.m. After that it is unrestricted (and free). Solves the commuter problem.

Member

I think the high street needs to evaluate what shopper it’s trying to attract and develop the appropriate strategy. Shopping at a one-stop supermarket in a business park is a utility exercise devoid of any pleasure. The high street (assisted by short sighted town planners) has lost the battle in this area. They need to attract the shopper who is not trying to fill a supermarket trolley, but perhaps browsing for a book, an item of clothing, and perhaps a bite to eat. To attract this shopper this you need to improve the environment.

Learn from places like Poynton: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0,
or New York : http://www.americabikes.org/nyc_study_finds_protected_bicycle_lanes_boost_local_business

Member

The ambiance was there in my neighbouring high street, I shopped, had a snack and had my hair cut there. The council doubled the parking charges and we all drifted away. Shops closed and the shopkeepers ran a very strong campaign to get the charges reduced, the council ignored them. Then a couple of more shops closed, a pound shop and coffee chains opened up, still we stayed away. Now the council have had a rethink. They reduced the parking charges to an almost acceptable level, but we still stay away, why, because it is no longer the same high street. Who pays to improve the environment now? The shopkeepers are almost bankrupt and the council will certainly do nothing all the time they have income from the pound shops and the coffee shops and more shops like that waiting to fill the vacant shops.

Perhaps Louise has the answer!

Member

My local town not only hiked car parking charges but also changed the times to be from 8 to 6 to 8 to 8 . Inconsistently some of the car parks change the tariff to be different from 6 to 8 in the evening to a pound. From 70 p an hour ,so it should be cheaper BUT the machines are not modern enough to cope .The town has massive eating culture. I made a recent visit at 7.45 and went to pay but tried to put in 70p but was informed by the machine I should put in a pound