With town centre traders needing all the help they can get, the 15 minutes free parking being brought in by Shropshire Council from Monday is a small gesture which takes a step in the right direction.
Parking charges are a disincentive to shoppers and can make all the difference if they have a choice of going elsewhere where parking is free – usually those out-of-town shopping centres which are draining the lifeblood out of the county’s high streets.
It is not just about money, and the cash-strapped council adding to its coffers, but psychology. If you want to welcome people, you do not hand them out financial punishment. Parking charges send out a signal, and once a town starts to be perceived as being unfriendly to motorists, it is the devil of a job to overcome that perception.
In the words of John Hall, of Shrewsbury’s Shop in the Loop group, it would be churlish not to welcome this initiative by the council.
It is an indication that the council is aware of the pain that traders are facing, in which parking charges are implicated, and is looking for ways to ease that pain. However, having given the council credit for that, it is difficult to get too excited.
There is not much shopping you can get done in 15 minutes. By the time you are out of your car and in the shop, you are looking nervously at your watch.
It is a period of free parking which will benefit those who are popping into town to pick up a particular item or two, and therefore not likely to be spending very much, as opposed to those who wander the shops at leisure, with no time pressure, and will stop for a cuppa, and depart the town clutching bags full of clothes, gifts, or whatever.
At least Shropshire Council has shown it is prepared to move on the issue. To invoke an old Chinese proverb, a great journey starts with a single step.