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Do we want to see empty shops again & dead town centres?
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Restarting Car Park Charges too soon

Yesterday Shropshire Council announced that they were restarting car park charges for the 1st of June. Restarting car park charges too soon is crackers. Shops won’t be opening until the 15th of June. Town centres don’t need any barriers to trade. They will be desperate for suitably distant footfall. Shropshire Council will be placing barriers to trade and will stop people returning to our town centres. To do so in whole or part before things have halfway recovered is insane. To do so before that trade has resumed is insane.

If anything all of our retail centres in towns and large villages across Shropshire will need support for a considerable time. Footfall will remain limited under a new socially distant regime. Charges didn’t support town centres before lockdown & they certainly won’t help recovery.

My instant reaction to the news yesterday that Shropshire Council were Restarting Car Park Charges

It is understandable if they want to increase the churn/turnover of spaces that are in critical locations that are overused. However, times were tough for our town centres before Coronavirus. Retail was already shrinking generally in the face of online shopping. That will be worse now as online shopping will have become more of a habit for many shoppers during the lockdown. Worrying about churn shouldn’t be their priority now.

Ludlow asked for free parking until October. In April Ludlow Town Council, Ludlow Chamber of Commerce, and the Shropshire Councillors for Ludlow and Clee wrote to the leader of Shropshire Council to call for free parking in the town’s car parks to be extended until October. Free parking until October should be something that happens across Shropshire.

Coronavirus restrictions aren’t stopping. They are just easing. Coronavirus will be around for a long time. At least until/if an effective antiviral is found. That means that we all need to find a new normal and a way of safely going about our lives. If the economy is to recover that means giving key parts of the economy support through the transition to the new normal and hopefully back to normal. The Chancellor has said we are facing a massive recession. Effective support will be all the more critical.

Do we want to see empty shops again & dead town centres? Closed shops in Oswestry in 2017
Do we want to see empty shops again & dead town centres?

Shropshire Councils priorities should be:

  • increasing footfall – without more footfall, our traders will be in trouble
  • maintaining safe social distancing – ensuring shoppers and traders stay safe
  • lifting charges entirely, at least in the short-term. This will mean that they have to take a new approach to enforcement/ticketing. For example, alter parking machines issue tickets for free but still time-limited. Enforce the duration still. Just not the charge. In the longer-term, they need to reduce charges generally, to boost town centre trade
  • helping to build sustainable town centres by focusing on them as destinations for more than just shopping. Going to the town centre needs to be an event/day trip in itself. It needs to be about far more than just shopping
  • stopping activities that promote out of town shopping. That means using the planning system to do some proper urban planning and stopping piecemeal development led planning.

Shropshire Council announcement:
restarting car park charges for the 1st of June.

“With our car parks getting busier as people return to work, and with many shops set to re-open soon, we’ve decided to reintroduce charges in some car parks from next week – while ensuring that there is free parking for our key workers.
“A number of important factors have been considered in making this decision. These include our current work to encourage and enable people to safely and confidently visit our town centres; the need to manage parking behaviour; and the need to return to charging for car parks in a manner that supports and contributes to the economy of Shropshire – and that supports steps to reducing carbon emissions in line with our Climate Emergency declaration.
“Public health and safety is clearly a priority and we acknowledge that some people may be wary about using, or queuing at, the pay and display machines. We advise people to follow the social distancing guidelines at all times, and encourage car park users to use the MiPermit app through which they can pay to park without having to use a machine.
“Due to the national lockdown easing, and evidence that some town centre car parks are increasing in use of people parking all day, there is currently no turnover or churn of parking spaces.
“This partial reintroduction of charges will encourage people to use car parks on the edges of the town centres as these will be free of charge, and encourage this turnover and the provision of accessible car parking.”

Shropshire Council: Parking charges to be reintroduced in some Shropshire Council car parks from 1 June