The retail industry has welcomed news that the government is to scrap centrally-imposed restrictions on how many car parking spaces can be provided in town centres, as long as councils don’t exploit the new ruling to generate revenue.
National parking restrictions set by Whitehall have until now dictated the number of parking spaces a council is permitted to grant — often with a cap that limits the spaces town centres can offer even when they want to provide more — but communities secretary Eric Pickles confirmed this week that the anti-car restrictions would be axed.
Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said letting local authorities have the freedom to provide the parking facilities which will best support their town centres was ‘the right thing to do’.
But he stressed that councils should make use of the new policy to provide more parking as quickly as possible in areas where it is needed — and at the right price.
“It’s short-sighted to treat parking as a revenue raiser,” he said. “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.”
Ironside also suggested that income raised from parking should be reinvested in high street improvements to help reinvigorate town centres and benefit local communities.
Communities secretary Pickles announced the sweeping changes on Monday and insisted the new rules would help to revive the country’s town centres. “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 are standing up for local high streets,” he said.