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Are parking fees killing trade or a vital fundraiser?

PUBLISHED: 09:31 13 September 2012

Car Park

Car Park

Archant

In January Gravesham Borough Council introduced parking charges on Saturdays to tackle a £600,000 deficit left in the council's budget due to government funding cuts.

Since they were brought in, campaigners have been calling for those charges to be abolished.

In June, a petition of 3,000 signatures was delivered to the council by campaign group Urban Gravesham, which has just had another 3,000 names added to it.

According to Gravesham council, no other local authority provides free Saturday parking.

A council spokesperson said: “The decision by the Cabinet to reintroduce charges for Saturday parking was also based on there being no clear evidence to show that free Saturday parking was having a significantly positive impact on the local economy.”

Council figures show Gravesend’s town centre has had a 4 per cent year-on-year decrease in footfall on Saturdays compared to a national decline of 5.4 per cent.

The Reporter asks should free parking be re-introduced or should motorists pay to shop?

Urban Gravesham Chairman, Martin McKay said:

Since the council removed free Saturday parking in the town centre it is evident that the car parks are less full and it seems that there are less people in town.

Urban Gravesham has talked to thousands of shoppers at its stall who have all confirmed that parking charges are a concern. We’ve also talked to lots of traders. We’ve had huge support for our petition to bring back free Saturday parking with people queuing up to sign.

The recent Mary Portas High Street Review, which the council has endorsed, concluded that a priority for any thriving town centre is free car parking.

Gravesend town centre shops and businesses need all the support they can get in these difficult economic times.

While we sympathise with the difficult financial decisions the council has to make, it is time for it to think again on parking charges. The council’s finances have improved recently and it is possible to relax Saturday parking fees without cutting services or jobs.

Urban Gravesham is politically independent. We have no interest in party arguments, we simply want what’s best for the town. As the local civic society, we wish to encourage a flourishing Gravesend town centre which will benefit all those who live in the borough.

James Munn, of Munns Gravesend, said:

We haven’t seen a dramatic drop in business but there are a hundred and one reasons why retail is up and down, you can’t just say it is because of parking, but parking is another twist to the pressure on town centre businesses.

Town centres are having a difficult time because there are huge shifts in shopping patterns. It would be a big help if they were to remove parking on a Saturday.

I talk to customers who are reluctant to stay in the town because they only have two hours parking they have bought, whereas in the past when it was free they would be inclined to linger a bit and do a bit of window shopping.

We are aware that anyone who comes to the town centre has to pay for it but at Bluewater the parking is free.

When someone lives outside of Gravesend, say in Istead Rise, and they decide to go shopping, there is not a lot of difference between going to Bluewater or Gravesend, but if it costs £1.50 to park at Gravesend they will go to Bluewater. I am sure it does influence people.

People paying for parking is a touchy subject and they will go a long way to avoid it. It will put them off coming into the town centre on a Saturday.

I know it would take some money to do it but it would give the town centre some help, especially around Christmas time when shops are busiest.

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