Hunts 'needs earlier free parking'

CAR parking in Huntingdonshire s market town centres should be free after 3pm to encourage shoppers to deal with local businesses, the district council is being urged. Huntingdonshire should follow the example of Chester, where the move has generated sign

CAR parking in Huntingdonshire's market town centres should be free after 3pm to encourage shoppers to deal with local businesses, the district council is being urged.

Huntingdonshire should follow the example of Chester, where the move has generated significant benefit to traders, said Malcolm Lyons, Huntingdonshire chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.

"Independent retailers in town centres are the engines of local economies, and parking policy must take account of the needs of small businesses if town centres are to thrive.

"Businesses rely on the movement of goods and people and on their ability to stop at their desired destination. Parking is vital, therefore, not just for business owners and their employees, but also for deliveries and customers.


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"Small market towns and their outlying rural communities are hit particularly hard by the imposition of parking charges. In these car-dependent communities, free access to the town centre is essential not only for shopping but for social interaction," he added.

"The dependence of independent retailers on sensible parking policies is being undermined by local councils who treat parking as a means of generating revenue, as opposed to a way of managing traffic and benefiting the local community."

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Mr Lyons also urged councils to provide more free short-term on-street parking.

"For a small retailer the most significant things are business rates and rent, but you need to increase footfall to pay for them, and car parking is an important issue. At the moment, if you need to go to the post office, it's better to go to a smaller one than the one in the middle of Huntingdon," he said.

The FSB's plea is likely to get a mixed reception from senior councillors.

Cllr Andrew Hansard, the cabinet member responsible for economic growth is attracted by the idea. "I'm all for free parking from an economic development point of view, particularly on Saturdays. I would have thought it would attract people into the centre more," he told The Hunts Post.

But the potential loss of revenue is unlikely to be well received by his finance colleague, Cllr Terry Rogers, who is concerned about maintaining services at a time when recession-driven expenditure is increasing, revenue from the council's trading activity is reducing, and there is uncertainty about the future level of central government funding.

HDC is currently conducting a review of the parking regime, as it promised when the charges rocketed last autumn, but that does not include making parking free after mid-afternoon.

But, contrary to rumours circulating in the business community, nor does it include introducing charges for parking on Sundays, which will remain free, stressed HDC's transportation team leader, Stuart Bell.

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