Poll: Traders call for free town centre parking to inject economic boost in Ipswich after borough council revenue figures revealed
Give us a break.
That was the plea from traders who today urged Ipswich Borough Council to inject an economic boost into the town centre by introducing free parking schemes.
Their calls come as figures uncovered by The Star revealed the authority made a profit of more than £500,000 in car park revenue last year.
Meanwhile, data released under Freedom of Information laws showed more than £2m has also been collected by the council in parking fines in the last five years – although the cost of traffic wardens was £1.7m during the same period.
Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, admitted he was “surprised” at the figure – adding a “radical rethink” was required to tackle the issue of car parking in town.
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He said: “At what is a difficult time for all high streets, I think many businesses in Ipswich will, like me, be surprised that such a large profit is made annually from car parking.
“Ipswich Central has been arguing for some time that a radical rethink on car parking pricing strategy is needed.
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“Together with the Ipswich Chamber we are in dialogue with the councils on this issue at present and they are fully aware of our views.”
Last month, The Star surveyed businesses in the town on what one change they would like to see introduced – and parking prices were a major concern for retailers, restaurants, and other firms.
Responses to the town centre survey show a significant proportion of businesses want to see cut – or total abolition – of car park charges.
Jane Cooper, of Pickwicks coffee and tea house, said: “I would advocate free parking within all council-controlled car parks for one year.
“I feel it is important to be bold with this approach and not water this idea down by only reducing the parking fees. Free parking would be a clear statement of intent to regenerate our historic and frankly, dying town.”
Rodney Bates of Global Fruits said: “The one thing which you could ask anybody about the town it would always come back that we need cheaper parking
“With the increase in out of town sites which have free parking the town centre needs a much better price structure to bring more people in.
“The council needs to work with NCP and other car park operators to bring in a basic price where ever you park.”
Francesco De Lellis, owner of Francesco Hair Salon, St Matthew’s Street, Ipswich, said the free parking debate was a “major issue” amongst customers.
“Free parking would definitely help bring people in to town and would entice people thinking of going to places like Bury St Edmunds or Norwich to shop here instead,” he added.
An IBC spokesman said: “The money raised from car parks helps offset council expenditure elsewhere and to keep all our services as cost-effective as possible.
“We work with partners such as Ipswich Central on ways to support our town centre in many ways, including parking offers. Our £1 an hour scheme compares well with council-run car parks in other large urban centres such as Norwich, Cambridge and Colchester. It is a myth that Ipswich is expensive to park.
“In our budget this year we have included a sum of £50,000 to spend on car parking promotions and we are currently examining the best way to use this. No decisions have been made but we are looking at all options.”
He added: “IBC has slashed its town centre car parking charges to just £1 an hour and we hope private operators will follow our lead.
“We have done this to help boost the town centre economy – both retailers and entertainment and leisure venues.
“By offering free parking from 8pm, you can enjoy a night out at the Regent or a restaurant/pub for just £1 if you arrived before the show at 7pm.”