FSB launched a mini campaign to halt the Council’s ill-considered plans on behalf of concerned retailers in January. The plans only came to light shortly before the Christmas break. FSB kicked off lobbying early in the New Year and was able to get coverage in the MEN, Stockport Express, and on BBC Radio Manchester making the case that such large increases would harm the already struggling retailer sector.
The ensuring furore saw the Council go back to the drawing board, and initially say it was looking to water down the proposals, and even look at introducing 30 minutes of free parking in district centres car parks, although later said this was not possible for cost reasons. The town hall did, however, agree to much smaller increases from 20p to 30p an hour in the districts.
In Stockport town centre they are now introducing 15 minutes of free parking at Merseyway car park, and will only increase car parking from 80p to 90p an hour instead of £1.60. Plans to introduce a new minimum parking time of two hours were also dropped, as has proposals to introduce car parking charges at station car parks in Bramhall, Heald Green, Romiley and Marple.
Chris Manka, Area Chair for Greater Manchester, said: “This was a positive step of sorts, but I worry this still hurts businesses at a time when Stockport is facing the closure of some major stores in the centre. Whilst I’m pleased the council elected to amend its original plan, they have increased prices at a difficult time for retailers.
“Their new proposals still amounts to a 50% increase in parking for an hour in the district centres, and no grace period parking which is what would have really helped. The Council explored this but ditched the plan as it didn’t raise enough cash. They have now promised to look at this on a case-by-case basis for each town centre – and we will hold them to that.
“In Stockport town centre traders are already saying 15 minutes ‘grace’ parking is not enough time, and I reckon most people will agree.”
He added: “The timing for these changes could not have been worse, as M&S are closing, Toys R Us and Maplin are in administration, and New Look are also leaving Stockport. We need to find ways to encourage more people to use the town centre and shop at the remaining businesses, which still offer a compelling range of goods and services. Retailers across the country are leaving high streets, and Stockport has an opportunity in its size and catchment area to pilot initiatives that could conceivably reverse the trend and create vibrant town centre spaces for all to enjoy.
“We will continue to monitor car parking prices at all town centres, and will be bring it to public attention if other councils attempt similar.”