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Do we want free parking in South Shields?

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car parkIndependent Alliance calls for free parking

It’s a bit of a vexed question at the moment with all sorts of letters having been recently published in the local newspaper bemoaning the fact that our town centre appears to be dying on its feet during the recession with a collective view that parking charges are driving customers away. There can be bo doubt that the development of out of town shopping centres (which NEVER charge their customers to park) have had an effect over the past couple of decades, with places such as the Metro Centre, the Royal Quays, Washington Galleries, and Dalton Park all encouraging us to jump into the car and enjoy the benefits of varied shopping with free parking, but it is still true that many prefer the more individual characteristics of the traditional high street shopping experience.

The removal of parking charges in South Shields town centre may just encourage more to shop in King Street but it isn’t guaranteed, what would make a greater difference would be the introduction of more retailers to fill the empty premises and offer more choice and variety. Removal of parking charges would also be costly to South Tyneside Borough Council with a loss of revenue, which goes some way towards paying for the maintenance of car parks, it would also encourage the clogging up of parking bays by commuters and others who want to park all day long, thus reducing the number of spaces available to shoppers. The issue is being considered by the council and there is a public consultation exercise going on to gather our views, and at Thursday’s meeting of the Borough Council in South Shields Town Hall the Independent Alliance group of councillors is proposing a notice of motion which calls upon the council to introduce free parking throughout the borough. Now this seems odd for a couple of reasons (a) the council is already committed to reviewing car parking charges and is expending money, energy, and time in trying to find a solution, and (b) in another notice of motion the Alliance wants the council to sign up to the Guardian’s latest 10:10 campaign to reduce carbon footprints (free car parking would surely encourage a much greater use of the car at the expense of public transport) – they cannot have it both ways!

I am not in favour of a general free parking regime throughout the borough, indeed I am not in favour of free parking in South Shields town centre either, but I am in favour of free parking for shoppers and tourists at the appropriate time and in the appropriate places. I favour a system which ties retailers into a partnership with the council and shares parking revenues on a short term basis and provides for free parking for those shoppers spending cash at the retailers within the scheme. I have argued the case before many times in this blog and the main details can be found here.

Such a scheme for shoppers ought to prove popular whilst still discouraging the bay hoggers who want to park all day for free, for retailers it provides guaranteed sales, for shoppers it provides free parking if they spend £5 (or cheap parking if they stay less than two hours), and for the council it still guarantees a revenue from car parks. All round it is far better than what we have and only needs a redesign of tickets and a small administrative change to make it work.

The other matter of car parking at the sea front needs to be re-addressed, perhaps we could go back to free parking in the winter months without seeing a huge loss of revenue, I saw no real reason to change other than to try and maximise car parking revenue.

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Written by curly

October 18, 2009 at 10:51 am

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