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Conservatives seek redemption for car park fiasco

July 29, 2011 8:51 AM
By Trevor Carbin

The state of panic gripping County Hall over the drop in car park usage in Wiltshire towns was shown in a hastily produced report to the WC 'cabinet' ahead of the meeting on July 26th.

The council is to spend £50,000 on a so-called "Car Park Redemption Scheme." This would only apply to the council's off-street car parks, and only in those towns where the business community was prepared to co-operate.

Warminster, Devizes, Wootton Bassett, Melksham and Corsham already have some kind of redemption scheme which involves retailers giving refunds against the cost of parking. Some of these schemes are supported by groups of local traders and others are applicable to specific retailers.

The responsible cabinet member, Dick Tonge, has previously said you'd have to spend £30 in a shop before qualifying for a rebate, though the latest report doesn't mention any minimum figure. The £30 sum was derided at the time as being hopelessly out of touch with reality.

Town Councils or Chambers of Commerce would be responsible for running and marketing the scheme. The Council will pay for promotional material, signs, two-part tickets and the conversion of the machines; and will co-ordinate the promotion of the scheme.

To see the report go to http://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/mgConvert2Pdf.aspx?ID=16050&T=9 and select the additional paper.

Comment. Whilst it's good that WC Conservatives have woken up to the fact that there is a problem, this is not the solution. It's an expensive, bureaucratic and complex answer to a simple question. It's likely that many town councils and/or chambers will refuse to co-operate, as could retailers. When challenged on the way that car parking charges have hit town centres cabinet members point out that there's a recession and that more people are doing internet shopping. What they don't realise is that this is precisely the reason why racking up car parking charges now was such a bad idea. They are kicking the local economy while it's down. The correct answer is to reduce charges until the economy recovers. When our town centres are teeming with shoppers and there's a shortage of spaces in the car parks, that will be the time to impose increases, though even then charges should be at a sensibly managed, not punitive, level.

Picture: Conservative County Hall being demolished.


Your Say:

"The parking charges in Salisbury are too high - indeed they are the highest in the county and are acting as a considerable dis-incentive for people visiting Salisbury to the considerable disadvantage of many traders in the city. That these charges have been imposed with inadequate consultation by a majority of councillors with no interest in the wellbeing of Salisbury is undemocratic. We support the document put forward by City Centre Management and urge (WC) to implement its proposals without delay." Salisbury resident.

"Devizes did try a parking fee redemption scheme but it survives, as far as I am aware, only at Sainsbury's, where parkers are a captive audience! The potential cost to council of £50,000 for the new two-part ticket machines, etc, demands a considerable contribution from parking fees, which would seem untenable in the current environment. Anecdotally, there is resentment among retailers in, it would seem, more than one location because of the adverse variation in car parking charges, which has impacted on trading patterns - frequency of visits as well as timing. The idea that, whether the downturn in trade is due to the recession or to parking charges, retailers should now subsidise their sales sits uncomfortably. The timing could not be worse for smaller businesses, who are now smarting from a savage increase in charges for trade and commercial waste. Psychologically, it seems to be the wrong moment". Cllr Nigel Carter, Devizes Guardians.

"The decision SHOULD be immediately reversed as your consultation was flawed..therefore probably illegal. Get on with sorting this out. STOP stalling and make the correct moves to reinstate Salisbury as a viable shopping city now. People are SO angry ...and getting ANGRIER...and you need to step up to the breech and sort it now. Jane and Andrew..sort it out now ..its what you are paid for. If you don't do this by September when the tourists leave Salisbury will suffer severely in these down months and I can assure you right now businesses will start folding one after another. They are nearly there now...how do I know? They come in and tell me. I have passed this information onto you several times. I am not scare mongering I am passing real time information from MD's of businesses that have been going 28 years and longer!" Salisbury retailer.