Parking costs are driving trade away

This is an article about Peckham from the South London Press: Parking costs are driving trade away.

TRADERS have launched a petition calling for parking charges to be scrapped to save shops and businesses.

Shopkeepers in Rye Lane, Peckham, collected more than 1,000 signatures in three days demanding that Southwark council drops charges in the town centre multi-storey car park, which has 10 floors.

They claim this would bring in shoppers and save small businesses, which they say are losing out to other town centres where parking is free.

Elaine Carrigan, who runs a card stall in front of the Peckhamplex cinema, said: “Five years ago the car park was free and it brought people into Peckham.

“But since the council started charging parking fees, hardly anyone uses the car park and a lot of people go to Surrey Quays, where parking is free.

“It costs 90p an hour and the charge will go up to £1 on April 23.

“We would like free parking for a four-week trial period to encourage trade.

Should this period be successful, we would like free parking permanently.”

Simone Brown, who runs Peckhamplex in Rye Lane, said: “With the cinema we only get local visitors. With free parking we will get visitors from further afield.”

“We charge £4.90 [admission], but with £3 for parking, people would rather go somewhere else.

“From the response we have had to the petition, we know that people are supportive of the idea.”

Councillor Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for transport, said: “The car park is value for money if you compare it with inner-London charges. It is under-used.

“When it was free it was practically full most days but we can’t say whether they were shoppers or commuters.

“It needs more maintenance than our other car parks and has huge electrical costs. In the long-term, introducing free parking would go against our policies which encourage the use of sustainable transport.”

Back to Haslemere’s parking situation…Today your Editor spoke with the Head of Transport of a County Council in the South of England (not Surrey). He has been following the Haslemere parking story as his daughter is my goddaughter.

He and I would both agree with Barrie Hargrove that introducing free parking would go against policies which encourage the use of sustainable transport. I’d extend that notion even further. When parking charges are introduced as a single issue by a council, you create bigger problems. In the Haslemere case, the single issue is revenue – raising funds and making up for a loss from enforcement charges (although there is no tangible evidence of the latter in the public domain.)

Parking is a very important tool that supports economic regeneration, environmental improvement and sustainable transport. It is a tool that can effectively change the way people do things. Another tool is pedestrianisation and keeping cars out of town centres. My friend, the Head of Transport of a County Council in the South of England, gave me an example of pedestrianisation of a town centre that was pedestrianised and actually increased footfall, filling shopping roads with people not cars. The pedestrianisation was supported by a cohesive transport policy. Also, high car parking charges work but mainly as a way to encourage shoppers in town centres to use other sustainable forms of transport (park & ride/cycling/walking).

I’d love to read Peckham’s sustainable transport policy.

I’ve not heard of one for Haslemere.