'The last thing we need': Shropshire business boss hits out over potential car park price rises

Parking charge increases are "the last thing people need" amid the cost of living crisis, a Shropshire business boss has said.

Business leader Stephen Robbins
Business leader Stephen Robbins

Shropshire Council has announced it will carry out a review of charges, saying any price rise would not be introduced to "squeeze money" out of motorists, but to encourage greener travel.

Options being considered include charging for parking on Sundays and later in the evening than 6pm and getting rid of Christmas concessions.

Bridgnorth Chamber of Trade chairman Stephen Robbins branded the council's rationale as "ridiculous".

"People are going to have less money to spend, and the last thing they need is parking increases," he said.

"It's a constant frustration for traders who see people going elsewhere.

"They (the council) keep going on about using public transport but they're cutting bus services left, right and centre. It's just ridiculous. In Shrewsbury it might work, but not in the market towns.

"It's all very well saying use public transport. Well, why don't you give us some public transport to use?

"If you're going shopping, you can't go on a push bike.

"We're hearing that people living a few miles outside the town are now doing their shopping in Telford, Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton and Kidderminster because it's easier to get there.

"They are doing nothing to help people do what they want them to do."

The council’s assistant director for infrastructure, Steve Smith, outlined that the aim of the review was to encourage people to use public transport and active travel options more.

In his report, Mr Smith said: “Parking is a complex and emotive issue that is often trying to weave a balance between several competing demands. It is therefore essential that any parking strategy proposals are fully consulted upon to ensure that all views are sought to help inform where the most appropriate balance between competing demands can be struck.

“The effectiveness of a parking strategy will be very reliant on the pricing mechanisms used. It is considered that an initial pricing mechanism and charging rate should be developed and consulted upon in parallel with the parking strategy to ensure that consultees are able to provide fully informed feedback on proposals and the potential implications that may arise from a strategy.

“Statutory guidance for parking states that authorities should never use parking charges just to raise revenue or as a local tax. No presumptions on income arising from a parking strategy are considered at this stage.

“A parking strategy has the potential to promote more sustainable modes of travel and as a result reduce carbon emissions, particularly in the larger towns of Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Bridgnorth. A new parking strategy would therefore be expected to have a positive effect on carbon emissions from energy and fuel consumption.”

The previous parking strategy was launched in 2018, but Mr Smith said it is outdated due to changes to travel habits contributed to by the coronavirus pandemic.

He added: “The programme for implementation has been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and have become increasingly less affordable as a result of inflationary parking costs not being met by a reciprocal inflationary increase in charges, resulting in costs being higher than income and needing to be subsidised from other budgets. The impact from Covid saw a further significant drop in income. The changes in behaviours arising from Covid and cost of living means that some of these initiatives may not reflect contemporary needs and therefore should be reviewed.

“During the last four years, new issues have emerged, parking demand frequently exceeding supply at peak times, compounded by an increase in frequency of emergency and flooding events disrupting service provision.”

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