Council backs free parking plan in four Derbyshire towns to boost trade after lockdown
Four Derbyshire towns will have free parking after 2pm for the entire month of September in a bid to boost trade after lockdown.
Derbyshire Dales District Council approved the plans at a meeting this week
It will see the charges at the council’s town centre car parks in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and Wirksworth – along with Matlock Bath – scrapped after 2pm through September.
The council says it will be relying on feedback from businesses to see if the venture, which will see the authority miss out on £45,000 in charges, is a success in boosting the local economy or not.
Other options had included free parking on Saturdays in September (£56,000 in lost income); free parking on weekends in September (£107,000); and free parking for the whole of September (£201,000).
MORE TRANSPORT NEWS: How Derbyshire County Council wants to improve bus services locally
Paul Wilson, the council’s chief executive, said free parking is not the solution to all of the problems being experienced in the area’s town centres.
He also warned that long-term free parking, considering the authority’s own financial position and in need of all the income it gets, has significant risks.
The idea for free parking came through a prompt from the Ashbourne Town Team, in line with what the authority does at Christmas.
Income from parking is used for maintenance of the car parks, the district’s public gardens, open spaces and play areas, along with other services.
It is one of very few income sources left for local councils, which it uses to prop up other essential services.
Mr Wilson wrote in a report on the issue: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the three national lockdowns on the Derbyshire Dales has been widespread and ongoing.
“In the Derbyshire Dales, it has affected jobs, health, incomes, communities, environment, public services and more.
“Despite the plethora of financial support packages that have been put in place by the district council to support businesses, it is likely that many businesses will not survive and if they do, it is likely to be some considerable time before they will recover to their pre-March 2020 state, if at all.
“Irrespective of the level of car parking charges, the national restructuring of the retail sector, influenced by the rise in online sales, means every town faces the challenges of declining high street spend and footfall.
“It is evident that Covid-19 has added to the existing challenges town centre businesses currently face.
“Social distancing measures may impact profitability and some customers, now accustomed to online purchasing and home delivery, may not return to high street retailers.
“In order to respond to this request, consideration has been given to a series of options for a ‘one-off’, short term incentive for the month of September, for all town centre car parks in each of our four market towns plus Matlock Bath, which would have the benefit of extending the summer season.”
Residents in the Dales, like in many other council areas, already receive a free permit that enables them to park for free in council car parks every day before 11am and after 4pm.