MP hands over petition demanding free weekend parking

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16 Oct 2009

Council chiefs in Newcastle are coming under increased pressure to introduce free weekend parking in an attempt to attract more shoppers to the town.

A petition urging the Council to drop all weekend charges on its car parks was handed over to the Borough’s chief executive Mark Barrow on Friday by Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly.

More than 1,500 residents, shopkeepers and market stall holders have signed the petition which demands an amnesty on charges as a way of boosting trade and helping the town to pull out of the recession.

Mr Farrelly said other local councils – including Conservative-controlled Basildon Council in Essex - had introduced free parking and Stoke-on-Trent City has also been urged to scrap charges on its 35 car parks.

“This idea of cutting car parking charges is by no means unique and I hope the Borough Council in Newcastle will now give it serious consideration as a positive way of helping shoppers and traders alike,’ Mr Farrelly said.

“This is just one targeted initiative and our businesses deserve all the help the Council can give them. It will boost the local economy and also tackle the weekend parking congestion that blights the residential streets surrounding he town centre,” he added.

‘In some places, Newcastle charges for parking up to nine o’clock in the evening, which doesn’t happen even in the biggest of city centres, including London.’

Many traders in the town have given their backing to the campaign and councillor John Williams, leader of the Borough Council’s Labour group whose members organised the petition, said the response had been fantastic.

“We want more people to come into Newcastle and spend their money in our local shops, many of which are struggling at the moment. Free parking is something the Council can offer which would stimulate local business,” he said.

Presently, Newcastle does not charge for parking on Sundays and plans, as in previous years, to give concessions for late opening of shops in the run-up to Christmas. So far, however, it has said making weekends totally free would be too costly, in terms of revenue lost to the Council.

Recently, in an interview, Mr Farrelly said the Council could easily examine the budget spent on hiring expensive consultants to find the cash.

At present, for example, thousands of pounds are being spent on a so-called ‘Strategic Investment Framework’ report for the town centre, but there is nothing in the budget to put through even it most blindingly obvious conclusions.

Another £40,000 has also been spent on a ‘retail distinctiveness’ report and a further £90,000 or so is being splashed out on a report by a Manchester-based firm of property surveyors.

For years, however, the Council has not acted on calls – by Mr Farrelly, town centre traders and others - to help Newcastle pay to its strengths: by attracting specialist shops and bringing in shoppers who otherwise go to the likes of Trentham Gardens and Nantwich.