Retailers have given a cautious welcome to government plans to do away with centrally-controlled parking quotas for town centres.
The British Retail Consortium said that ending restrictions on the number of car parking spaces in towns was a good move, providing councils did not use the extra spaces as a revenue raiser.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced the plan yesterday, saying that limits on the amount of parking councils can create are stifling high street regeneration.
“Families and local firms face a parking nightmare under existing rules,” he said. “Stressed-out drivers have to run the gauntlet of parking fines, soaring parking charges and a lack of parking spaces.
“These parking restrictions have hit small shops the hardest, creating ghost-town high streets which can’t compete with out-of-town supermarkets.
“We want to see more parking spaces to help small shops prosper in local high streets and assist mums struggling with their family shop. We’re standing up for local high streets.”
The BRC agreed that decisions on parking should be made locally.
Its director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, said: “Letting local authorities have the freedom to provide the parking facilities which will best support their town centres is the right thing to do. It never made sense to have Whitehall interfering in this issue.
“Accessibility is crucial to the success of town centres. Shoppers look for good transport connections and plenty of affordable parking. Councils should make use of this new freedom to provide more parking as quickly as possible in areas where it is needed – but it must be at the right price.
“It’s short-sighted to treat parking as a revenue raiser,” he went on. “High fees – which take advantage of shoppers – risk driving away business from town and city centres. Putting up parking charges may look like an easy option for cash-strapped councils but they shouldn’t be ignoring the wider impact on their communities and economies of the damage higher charges cause to town centres.”