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He argues that offering short free parking periods in council-owned car parks will help get shoppers, visitors and tourists back to town centres and lift the fortunes of shops, cafes and restaurants.
Mr Jenrick believes that a free period as short as 10 minutes could strike the right balance between encouraging shoppers and protecting council income.
His push for free parking comes ahead of the publication of a new parking code of practice this autumn. A new enforcement framework is designed to “curb unfair tickets” and “tackle cowboy parking firms” with a new, simplified appeals process.
The Government says it wants to give drivers confidence that when they head into town they will not be “unfairly penalised by rogue operators”.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This summer, many of us will be meeting with family or friends for a cup of coffee, exploring local towns or heading out for the evening to our favourite restaurant. To make this easier, and support towns centres after a difficult year, I’m urging councils to cut parking fees during the summer holidays.
“Too often our local independent shops, restaurants and cafés are hampered by expensive car parking charges that put people off a trip into town. This would be a significant gesture of support as we work to build back better and get behind our local businesses.”
Darren Rodwell, the transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, warned that if high streets parking charges are too low the spaces will be filled with commuters and this hurts local traders.
He said: “During the pandemic, many councils suspended parking charges in council-run car parks and for on-street parking and have waived all fines on appeal for critical workers. With traffic levels almost back to pre-pandemic levels and staycations more popular than ever, councils have to try and ensure there are spaces available for everyone at all times of the day and keep traffic moving, and dangerous parking is dealt with.
“With an increase of 10 million cars on the road in the last 20 years this has become increasingly challenging for councils. If charges are too low, high street spaces can be filled by commuters making it impossible for shoppers to park and having a negative knock-on impact on local businesses.”
John Longworth, chairman of the Independent Business Network, said: “There is no question that parking charges have been a major contributor to the decline of our town centres and high streets. A temporary reduction or elimination of charges would be welcome, but a long term solution is required.
“Of course the lost revenue will have to be dealt with either resulting in cuts or enhanced taxes elsewhere. A comprehensive approach is important if this is not to be merely a gimmick.”
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