In this guest post, Louise Ellman of the Transport Select Committee asks – would free parking encourage you to shop in your local town centre? Do restrictions and charges put you off?
Many people are concerned about the state of town centres and the demise of the British high street. There must be a number of reasons for this, including the current economic climate, local planning policy, parking policy, and business rates.
As the Chair of the Transport Committee in the House of Commons, I am interested in knowing whether policy is the culprit. What is it about parking that puts people off visiting their town centre?
I often wonder if it is the charge itself that people object to. Should parking be free? Is there such a thing as free parking? There is always going to be a cost associated with the maintenance and upkeep of a place where people can leave their cars. If we don’t pay for it through a parking charge, do we just end up paying for it through our Council Tax? Perhaps it doesn’t matter how we pay, as long as there is enough available.
Another thing that might be putting people off parking in their town centre is the fear of getting a penalty charge notice for unintentionally leaving your car in the wrong zone, or for overstaying in a pay and display space.
What’s the parking like in your local town centre?
I’ve heard from motoring organisations that people tend to be more willing to pay for parking if they feel they’re getting value for money. It’s about what the town centre has to offer the consumer as much as anything else. There must be more that can be done in partnership with local businesses to give the consumer a good deal.
In some areas free or cheap parking is used to encourage people into town centres, in others attractive offers are made eg two hours free parking when you buy a ticket at your local cinema, or 50p off when you buy coffee at your local cafe. Are there other good examples of policies like these in your local area?
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 adjudicators, and the Department for Transport Minister on 8 July. At the end of our inquiry we’ll be using all the information we have received to write a report with recommendations to Government on how to move forward with this issue. This is your chance to have a say.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Louise Ellman, Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee. All opinions expressed here are her own, not necessarily those of Which?