By Amie Keeley
Saturday, February 23, 2013
AN INNOVATIVE free parking scheme is being hailed a success after businesses said they have seen a significant increase in footfall.
Tendring District Council (TDC) is set to continue the popular initiative which allows people to use their car parks for 12 hours during the day completely free of charge.
A survey carried out by the local authority on hundreds of businesses found that around 50% had noticed a higher footfall through their town centres since the free permits were issued to households.
And approximately 30% of businesses said they noticed an increase in the number of customers coming through their doors.
TDC introduced the scheme at the end of July last year. Every council tax paying household in the district was issued with a free parking permit to use at any of the council’s 25 car parks from 10am to midnight.
A report by officers at TDC will go before cabinet members next week to discuss the continuation of the scheme for the next 12 months.
It states that “information so far from businesses is that Tendring is reversing national trends for shops”.
Leader of TDC Peter Halliday said the scheme has already been factored into this year’s budget, with £350,000 set aside, and if it continues to be successful and finances remain stable, there is no reason for it to be cancelled.
Reacting to the survey results, he said: “It’s great news. When those who benefit from a scheme tell you it’s actually working it has to be good news.”
He added: “There is a cost but there is a benefit and we have to realise that supporting business is key to keeping income from business rates at the level it is now. We don’t want to lose anymore businesses.
“This was in our manifesto pledge. We understand the importance of getting people into the town centres.
“The results might not come straight away but they do eventually. It’s now down to the shop keepers to relieve people of their money.”
According to the report, income from car park fees for 2012/13 is £291,873 compared to £422,291 the year before.
But the reduction is “significantly less” than anticipated and Mr Halliday confirmed income was steady in spite of the scheme.
Mr Halliday said: “It’s prudent budget management with what we have available and about making sure we bring benefits to residents and businesses alike.”
For other councils considering a similar scheme, Mr Halliday said: “It has to be considered in their all round finances. We have been able to do this because when the cuts were announced three years ago, we reacted very quickly and made changes.
“Anybody trying to do it now, if they haven’t already made that leap of faith, will struggle.
“It has to be done when the time is right and when you can afford it.”
He said the council may look to tweak the current conditions to ensure there is a balance between residents, shoppers and visitors benefiting from the scheme.