Tendring: Free parking scheme likely to be extended after retailers give it the thumbs up


- Credit: nick strugnell

Retailers in Tendring have welcomed news that a popular free parking scheme is likely to be extended.

The initiative, which gives every household in the district a permit to park for free in car parks run by Tendring District Council, was first introduced in 2012/13 and has been repeated again this financial year.

The aim is to support shops and businesses by encouraging people to spend their money locally and according to the latest survey more than 80% of traders would like to see the scheme continued.

The council says the scheme, which costs it around £300,000 in lost revenue, has received support from residents and firms alike and has increased footfall over the two years.

Now it is looking to maintain it for 2014/15 when the current permits runs out on March 31 2014.

Chairman of Brightlingsea Business Association, Des Rowson, said the free parking scheme had provided a “boost” for traders in the town.

“A lot of people complain about councils, but in Tendring we have been lucky. Free parking and reduced rates for shopkeepers have been introduced and this has really helped small businesses - so much so that we only have two empty units in the town at the moment,” he said.

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“People come into Brightlingsea from outlying areas to use the banks and because they don’t have to pay for parking they can stay longer and look around the shops.”

The decision to continue the scheme has been based, in part, on feedback from traders around the district. The most complete set of figures come from Clacton where 180 shops and businesses from a total of 294 responded to a survey.

Of the respondents, 121 said the scheme has increased footfall in the town, while 99 said it had led to more customers coming into their stores. An impressive 116 said shoppers were spending more time in their stores while 147 - 82% - said they would like the scheme to continue.

At the Perfume Shop in Station Road in the town, counter manager Sam Collis, said the business had benefitted from the scheme.

She said: “It’s certainly helped to keep people in the town. Before people were rushing because they had to get back to the car park - they felt like they didn’t have enough time. It’s stopped them from going elsewhere.”

Shopper Joanne Hales added: “You can park as close to the shops as possible and you don’t have to worry. It’s good for the shoppers, the shops and the people who work in them. I think the council have got it right with this one - it’s probably the best thing they have done.”

The off-street parking permits can be used in all council-run car parks except the Naze at Walton and Holland Haven. The council also operates another free parking concession available to anyone - including people coming from outside Tendring - using its car parks between 3pm and 8am daily.

According to Tendring Council’s interim leader Paul Honeywood, other authorities have shown interest in the scheme.

Mr Honeywood said: “We have had calls from lots of other districts and businesses – especially in Suffolk - who have asked how we can do it and they want to see something similar in their areas.”

“It has come about through our willingness to listen to our shops and businesses to find out what would help them through difficult financial times and then through careful budgeting on our part.”