As the future of free parking in the town centre hangs in the balance, Pioneer reporters Selena O’Donnell and Claire Devine ask shoppers and traders about the impact proposed changes could have on them
VISITORS using the Asda car park have enjoyed four hours free parking since December, but the new Tory-controlled Cheshire West and Chester Council is proposing the introduction of a free after 3pm scheme for all car parks in the town.
In August 2008, more than 7,000 people signed a petition backing a proposal by Independent politicians John Wilson, Henny Moore and Jonathan Starkey to implement the scheme, but the same group are now pushing for the continuation of a tariff-free system.
Port Arcades manager Les Lyon said: “The majority of visitors travel by car and if they have the choice between free parking in one location compared to another, it will make all the difference.
“The introduction of free parking for four hours has allowed all the shopping areas to be explored and used, leaving plenty of time for people to get back to their cars in comfortable time.”
Mr Lyon, who carried out a poll of retailers detailing a 93% surge in customers following the option of free parking, fears recession-hit businesses haven’t yet had the chance to reap the full rewards of the system.
He said “Free after 3pm bears no comparison to free parking, I realise that there are financial issues that the new authority has to take into account, which I can’t comment on, but the removal of free parking after such a short period will not give it the opportunity to have the full impact on town centre trade.
“I believe that the negative publicity of withdrawing it will distract from the good it’s done in the first place.”
Mr Lyon, who highlighted a 2.4% increase in footfall to the Arcades last week compared to a 4.2% drop nationally, added that he had so far not been consulted by the new authority about the possible effect on trade.