Cut-price parking boosts visitor numbers

REDUCED off-peak car parking charges in a north Essex town have been hailed as a success in attracting more visitors. The promotion, introduced at the beginning of July, was developed by Colchester Borough Council together with town centre businesses and trade associations affiliated to the “Choose Colchester” group.

REDUCED off-peak car parking charges in a north Essex town have been hailed as a success in attracting more visitors.

The promotion, introduced at the beginning of July, was developed by Colchester Borough Council together with town centre businesses and trade associations affiliated to the “Choose Colchester” group.

Seven car parks are included in the new “Shop, Work, Enjoy, Discover” deals, which build on the success of an initial trial offer last year at Colchester's Britannia car park. Details of the deals vary according to the time and location but in principle their aim is to encourage longer stays, compared with the former hourly charges.

And the early signs are that the approach is working, with figures for the St Botolph's, Britannia, Vineyard Street and Priory Street car parks are all ahead of last year's - bucking the national trend of lower car park usage against the background of recession.


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More than 800 extra tickets have been purchased overall, with a marked trend away from one hour tickets in favour of the special offer deals.

Tim Young, the borough council's street and waste services portfolio holder, said: “The early indicators for the scheme are extremely encouraging.

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“Allowing people a longer stay in town for a lower price is a boost not only to visitors but for traders too. We listened to what people wanted and designed the 'Shop', 'Work', 'Enjoy' and 'Discover' deals and this is really meeting the needs of our residents and businesses.

“Many traders have commented that the town seems much busier this year, which is great for trade. I think it's because the scheme is so easy to use, it takes the hassle out of parking and people don't have the worry about rushing to avoid overstaying. It's so accessible - providing another great reason to come into Colchester.”

Iain Wicks, chairman of the north-east Essex branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, which backed the Colchester Retail Business Association in negotiations with the borough council over the new charges, also welcomed the success of the initiative.

“The �2 flat rate charge for five hours between 10am and 3pm or for any period after 3pm makes the hourly parking charge much more affordable and we were hopeful it would bring extra people to the town.

“The system started on July 1and we are told that in the first month an extra 859 tickets were issued in the participating car parks compared to July last year with no significant reduction in use of other car parks.

“That is great news as it suggests that we saw an extra 859 visitors to Colchester during July which is an excellent start - we hope this will become a trend and as the message gets out that parking costs in Colchester are now just 40p an hour we will see even higher figures for future months.”

He added: “Getting people to come to Colchester is the first step and it is then up to retailers and those in the leisure and hospitality industries to make sure they have the products and services people will want to buy at a price which is competitive.

“Get that combination right and we will see Colchester businesses start to beat the recession.”

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