Thursday, 19 September 2013

The case for free time controlled parking in Hexham town

Many of you will know I have been campaigning for free parking in Hexham. Free Parking is one of the key points in my ten point plan which I have pledged to try and deliver for Hexham. Hexham's three Conservative County Councillors and their town council colleagues on Hexham Town Council were also elected on this pledge. At County Hall both Labour and the Conservatives are united on the benefits of free parking. I know that some residents think its a luxury we can't afford, but its actually something we desperately need if we want to save our small shops and boost our town centre.

Market towns like Hexham and their outlying rural communities are hit particularly hard by aggressively controlled parking charges.  I believe free and easy access to the town centre is essential to keep towns like ours alive in the long term and that is why I am urging us to drop the charges and see what benefits it brings. Put simply, why would you pay to park in the town centre when Tescos is providing free parking? That is one of the key battles the traders face - and it's one we can do something about.

I am the first to tell anyone who will listen how beautiful our historic town is. Yet the economic reality is that we must strain every sinew to help our local shops compete if we want them to stay in business and maintain a vibrant town centre. Parking charges may seem insignificant to some people but the free parking at Christmas last year saw trade boosted by 5-10%. If you are a small retailer trying to make ends meet that can make all the difference. Hexham is a wonderful place to shop but our independent retailers and local shops need every little bit of help they can get.

Also, time controlled parking will boost trade in our town centre and give our small shops a chance to compete with Tescos and the Metrocentre. The fact is that 60% of people have driven to an out of town shopping centre simply because parking is easier according to the FSB. We have have got to make it as easy as possible for people to support our locals and help keep our town centre alive. Free parking is a key way of doing that.

The fate of Hexham's car parking charges is to be decided by Hexham Town Council in the coming weeks in consultation with County Hall.  It is quite right this is a decision to be taken by the Town Council, and they know my position. I am an advocate of free parking because I believe it will help our small shops and I am determined to fight to keep our town centre vibrant. I make no bones about setting out the argument for free parking. I believe it is what is best for our town and I will fight for it every step of the way.

2 comments:

  1. It is not just the cost to ratepayers which is of concern. Will it work? As town centre parking is largely filled to capacity now, how will removing charges help? Surely it is availability of parking which is a key issue for most visitors and making it free may not help.
    The most popular shop locations are usually in traffic free environs. If free parking fails to revitalise our town centres can we please look at traffic reduction? Most of us don't mind walking - look at how far Metro Centre shoppers are prepared to march!

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  2. It seems to me there are some relevant questions here. Is anyone asking them? Do studies exist either in Hexham or at comparable places to reveal the net profit the charges bring in balanced against the reduced business rate that presumably follows? If Hexham's shops are closing because of the discouragement car parking offers, then the Council will lose revenue. If that can be quantified the argument will be very convincing.

    For my money a fair solution says that the parks at the bottom of the hill and on the fringe like Loosing Hill should be free. And then in the central core a charge as there is including the streets is fair. I believe that if you know Hexham there is always free space to park in and I do that!

    And a general point: to bring visitors in a place has to be welcoming. You want to go for a swim: we'll charge you to park. You want to explore our World Heritage Site: we'll charge you to park. You want to explore Wylam: we'll charge you to park (THANKFULLY that has now been undone). You want to explore beautiful Corbridge: we'll charge you to park unless you enjoy a bracing walk over the Tyne (fine on a niceday). I used to shop a lot in Corbridge, but I have not been inside the larder in years, it has lost its drop in factor.

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