Home » Calls to scrap Sunday parking charges

Calls to scrap Sunday parking charges

article-0-01BCC87C00000578-859_468x286A TOWN and county councillor has reignited the debate that parking charges should be scrapped in Carmarthen on a Sunday, after it emerged that there was a large spike in visitors to the town when charges were scrapped on a Sunday in November.
Councillor Alun Lenny is calling for charges to be scrapped after an idea by Carmarthen Town Forum saw three days of free parking from Friday to Sunday on the last weekend in November. As a consequence of the introduction of this free parking, there was an increase in the number of people visiting the town, with 27,000 recorded in King Street alone, providing a strong economic boost to the area.
Now armed with these statistics local councillors hope to discuss bringing back free parking on a Sunday, in order to boost the local trade in 2016. Cllr Lenny said : “As Plaid councillors for the town we previously fought plans to raise parking charges and extend charging hours.
“We are glad that the plan to charge people for parking in John Street car park after 6pm has been scrapped by the new Plaid-led administration. It’s also gratifying that the county council, through the Town Forum, is monitoring footfall in King Street, so that we have firm data to act upon.
“ It’s also worth remembering that a council ‘Task and Finish’ group is looking at the issue of parking charges across the county and will make recommendations to the full council in the new year.”
Focusing on the positive data provided by the survey on the weekend of free parking, Mr Lenny continued : “I’d asked for Sunday to be included in the ‘Bright Friday’ free parking event, November 27 to 29 to see if more people would come into town on that day. Footfall in King Street was up two per cent on the Friday, but actually fell almost seven per cent on Saturday. That might have been because of the weather, which turned wet and cold that week.
“However, there was a 15 per cent surge on Sunday — with footfall of more than 27,000 recorded in King Street. At their next meeting in January, I hope that the Chamber of Commerce can give some feedback about trade generated on that day. If there are indications that free parking on Sunday is a genuine boost to trade, there will be real grounds for opening a discussion on scrapping charges as an economic lever.
“There is already free Sunday morning parking in some car parks to allow people to attend church and chapel services. From recollection, the income from car parks, when set against the cost of employing traffic wardens on Sundays, is minimal.
“The situation is being constantly monitored and comparative figures will have to be analysed in detail. However, I hope that a business case can be drawn up asking the county council to consider scrapping these deeply unpopular Sunday charges.”
The issue of the introduction of free parking in town centres has been raging in the recently, after it was revealed in August that councils in Wales had made nearly £9m in profit with Carmarthenshire raking in a massive £795,000, a record amount for the authority and up from £487,000 in 2012-13.
This news came as no surprise, as the last year saw Carmarthenshire Council impose several measures that led to this profit landmark. They increased charges across their car parks county wide, as well as introducing charging for evenings and Sunday’s. Add to this their shelving of free Christmas parking and it all added up to a nice juicy profit.
The introduction of free parking is a debate that has been raging in nearby Ceredigion, as Cardigan businesses saw a great increase in trade after vandalism to the parking meters in the summer. Cardigan businesses said that profits were up 40% during the two-week period when the meters were out of order and chairman of Cardigan Traders Martin Radley said councils needed to rethink their parking charges.
“The fact is when people didn’t have to pay, they were shopping and enjoying the experience of shopping. They were staying longer, going to the cafes and restaurants and having a coffee in a relaxed manner without having to look at their watches and fear getting a penalty ticket,” he said.
Appointed as High Street Minister in David Cameron’s government, Marcus Jones MP, when asked whether small towns should become ‘meter-free zones’, said: “You can look at examples around the country where that very situation is currently in place, and in those areas where they are thinking very carefully about how they attract more people on to their high street and into those smaller town centres.
“Those areas seem to be doing better and I think it’s really important that councils understand that and develop their policies to make sure that they are attracting people to come and shop and frequent the high street.”
Edward King, president of motoring group the AA agreed with High Streets Minister Marcus Jones’ summer comments that parking charges should be abolished in small towns, but added that this should also apply to larger towns, who are struggling to compete with large out-of-town shopping centres.
“The minister’s recent intervention chimes well with the overwhelming opinion of AA members and other drivers. He just needs to extend those sentiments to council-run parking in bigger towns,” said King.
After a recent survey carried out by the motoring organisation, it was revealed that an alarming number of motorists are disillusioned and harbour a deep-rooted scepticism of what drives parking charges with 89% of 18,688 respondents to an AA-Populus poll believing that parking charges are set to maximise council income and operator company profits – rather than simply providing a service.
“For the majority of drivers, the concept of councils elected by the people to serve the people does not appear to apply to car parking. The deep-rooted suspicion is that parking charges and penalties serve only one purpose – propping up council coffers,” added King.