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For some time now the high street in the UK has been in decline.  Many people are attributing this to two main reasons, the massive rise in online shopping and the lack of parking spaces and limitations on parking in town centres.   Recent events in Cardigan, West Wales have really proved that parking has a real impact on the economic life of towns.

Cardigan proves parking impacts on the economy

All four ticket machines in Cardigan’s main car parks were vandalised in June and the council has since struggled to fund the £22k bill to repair the machines.  Consequently, there are no working parking meters.  Result for the people of Cardigan! This means that without any parking restrictions in place people are flocking back to the town centre.   Store owners claim their sales are up by 50%!

The town is much busier and Keith Davies who owns a butcher’s shop in the town said:  “We’ve long campaigned for free parking, and while we don’t condone the damage to the machines, the difference it’s made is unbelievable”.  Davies says he’s seen his own trade increase by 20% and other businesses have reported on 50% increases.  Normally the meters allow a maximum of three hours at a cost of £2.20 which limits the number and length of visits people are willing to make to the town centre.

Cardigan High Street

Martin Radley, chairman of Cardigan Traders said that the free parking allows small traders in the town to play on a “level playing field” with the local big supermarkets, Tesco and Aldi who offer free parking.  Radley said: ‘It demonstrates what we’ve been saying for years: if you have lower parking fees, or even no fees, then people will come into town.’

Ceredigion County Council are still committed to getting the machines fixed and up and running as soon as they can.  We think that it is a real shame that the Council are not being more open minded and trying to help the business community and local motorists/consumers a lot more.  How much more evidence do they need?  The sad fact is that local authorities are coming under increasing pressure to reduce costs and generate income and as usual the motorist is the easy target!

Last year airport parking firm put in a FOI request to get Plymouth City Council to reveal how much profit they made from penalty charge notices.  The information revealed that the Council received more than £2.7 million in 2013 from parking fines.  In response the Council claimed that fines were decreasing, PCNs helped to reduce contraventions and that surplus funds were reinvested into maintaining highways.

However, Plymouth Council’s points are debatable and it is hard to resist the evidence in Cardigan where the local economy has been really boosted through restriction free parking.