You can’t help but admire the tenacity of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
You can’t help but admire the tenacity of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Eric Pickles has correctly identified that parking in town centres is a major concern for shoppers and retailers and that making it more affordable and plentiful will help town centres and high streets across the country. Over the last few months we have seen lots of creative ideas emerge about what might be done about it.
While people have been much focused on the proposals concerning CCTV today, there are other good ideas contained in this announcement that might make a bigger positive difference in the long run. As it happens, at the British Retail Consortium (BRC) we are very supportive of the idea of opening up the data on the price of parking in different areas.
This could lead to a whole range of new websites and smartphone apps being developed to make it easier for people to compare the different parking options close to local high streets. This will make it more convenient to find affordable parking, and as people start making more informed choices and the habit of shopping around for your parking spreads, it should increase competition and drive prices down too. We would be keen to see this implemented as quickly as possible.
Local authorities should also look at solutions like providing more parking spaces and incentivising public transport use to give shoppers good alternatives. We would also like to see both central and local government looking at relaxing delivery restrictions where appropriate to reflect changing technology and reduce congestion for motorists during the busiest times of the day.
Punishing motorists with unaffordable parking charges has always been counterproductive for local economies. Driving footfall, not raising revenue, should be the primary objective and local authorities should manage accessibility in a way that encourages people to visit, not discourage them from coming in to town to shop.
We therefore welcome the continued focus on cutting the cost of parking. Combined with initiatives to address the other challenges UK high streets face, such as unaffordable business rates, retail crime and the quality of the environment in town centres, better and cheaper parking could make a real difference to communities and consumers across the UK.
Helen Dickinson is director general at the BRC