Car parking concerns persist as footfall figures show surge in people visiting town

The Chequers Court development and car park in Huntingdon.

The Chequers Court development and car park in Huntingdon. - Credit: Archant

More than 540,000 visitors were recorded in Huntingdon High Street in September, nearly seven per cent up on last year, according to the town’s latest footfall survey.

OPENING: Caffe Nero opens in Huntingdon later this month

OPENING: Caffe Nero opens in Huntingdon later this month - Credit: Archant

And the figures show that footfall for the year so far is up by 13.3 per cent - sparking concerns that the town is becoming a victim of its own success as shoppers battle to find a space in the main town centre car park at Sainsbury’s.

Ella Hopkins, from St Ives, said that on a visit to Huntingdon she had been unable to find a bay in front of Sainsbury’s or in the multi-storey car park and shopped at the out of town Tesco store.

She said: The parking is appalling at Sainsbury’s car park. I don’t know what is going to happen at Christmas.

“I was going round in circles. It was horrendous, so I went to Tesco instead.”

The multi-storey car park - built by Huntingdonshire District Council to serve a new shopping development - is now noticeably used more frequently than it was and a tailback on the ring road to get in to the Sainsbury’s parking area is longer.

The footfall figures in the town do not reflect the full impact of the opening of the Marks and Spencer Foodhall, Next, and TK Maxx shops at the new Chequers Court shopping area.

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Footfall, counted in the High Street from August 28, showed 540,190 people, 6.8 per cent up on 505,396 the year before.

The busiest day was September 2 when nearly 25,000 people were recorded in the High Street.

Sue Wing, manager for Huntingdon Business Improvement District (BID), said that although the footfall count only reflected people in the High Street, the upward trend was welcome.

“We are doing really, really well. We have got to be pleased,” she said.

Last month, The Hunts Post told how local Liberal Democrat councillor Ste Greenall wanted to apologise because he and colleagues did not have an answer to bad parking in and around the town which caused congestion and put lives at risk by blocking emergency vehicles.

Earlier this year he wrote to Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, about bad and illegal parking, adding: “With the new retail development moving ahead in Huntingdon, those areas badly affected right now could well find matters getting worse.”

Cllr Greenall has since had complaints about parking in St John’s Street and Percy Green Place where a resident said up to 20 cars a day parked to avoid paying charges at the station.

Town, district and county councillor Tom Sanderson said he shared frustrations over parking problems, saying: “The lack of enforcement, proposed increases in hourly HDC car parking charges and restrictions have all led to the situation that many residents find themselves in.

“I look forward to working with all the political parties and residents to bring about the improvements we need.”