The FSB is urging local authorities in Greater Manchester to revaluate what they charge for car parking to help ease the pain of high street retailers.
It comes after the organisation carried out research in to the price of parking in town centre across GM, which revealed a confusing array of prices, no two authorities using the same model, and vast difference in cost from authority to authority.
It said there was now a pressing need for local authorities to take action to help rescue their highstreets as the retail sector continues to reel from a series of big brand name store closures, high business rates, and pressure from e-sellers and out of town shopping centres where parking is free.
“The high street has never been under more pressure, and we need some drastic action, said Phil Thompson, FSB Chair in Greater Manchester (pictured below). “While the big name stores have the power and clout to renegotiate rents down with landlords, the independents have nothing left in the armoury and really need some extra special help.
“The time has come for councils to do more to help their own high streets, and taking a fresh look at car parking prices and the pricing models used would be a welcome start on the road to recovery.”
FSB conducted research into the pricing at council car parks in nine of the 10 boroughs’ main town centres, omitting Manchester city centre due to its status as regional ‘capital’. The league used prices to park for three hours, which is the time required for a proper visit to do shopping and/or to visit leisure facilities.
“Our research showed car parking charges vary hugely across GM,” added Thompson. “Some councils charge nothing to park, but at the other end of the spectrum it’s £3.50 for three hours. For many people paying to park is just not an affordable option, and all too often shoppers will vote with their feet.
“The problem for retailers is that they have absolutely no say whatsoever over the prices, councils can charge what they like, when they like. Some of the councils have extremely confusing prices systems as well, with different car parks charging different to one just down the road, while on street parking charges also vary. This is confusing for shoppers, and a simplified method would be very welcome.
“Authorities know charging to park adversely affects footfall, which is why most offer some type of free car parking initiative at Christmas, but why stop there? This is absolutely something that’s within the gift of councils to give, and as they start preparing for budget setting this autumn I urge them to look at places like Rochdale where the first three hours of parking is free, or Wigan and Bury where there is free weekend parking. These kinds of models needs to be tried and tested elsewhere in GM.
“Retailers rely on footfall and we need to make our town centres places where shoppers want to go to spend some time and spend their cash. I believe car parking is key to that, but retailers need action sooner rather than later,” he added.