Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
Free parking sought to boost Bishop Auckland businesses
3:26pm Monday 9th December 2013 in News
A PLEA has been made for free parking to help boost trade in a struggling town centre.
Councillor Lesley Zair believes many independent businesses will not survive in the long term if something is not done to encourage people into Bishop Auckland.
She said she has been inundated with concerned traders and is urging Durham County Council to provide some free parking not just in the run up to Christmas but into the New Year.
However, Adrian White, head of transport at the county council, said they are keen to support the town but research shows free parking does not necessarily increase the number of shoppers.
“We just need something,” said Coun Zair, who runs a cafe in Fore Bondgate. “Even if it was just for a couple of hours in the afternoon, it would make a difference. There use to be a rush in the town at Christmas but it is not like anymore.
“It is ridiculous how bad things are for some people. We (the cafe) are alright but other people are struggling to stay open and often shut early.
“The town is as bad as it ever has been. How many of the small businesses are going to survive when trade gets even quieter in January and February.”
The money generated from parking charges is believed to be reinvested on the management and maintenance of the car parks.
In recent months, a number of national companies have left the town centre, including Marks and Spencer, McDonald’s, Mothercare, Gamestation, Blockbuster, Thorntons, Millets and Internacionale.
Coun Zair added: “Without the major stores, the smaller ones can’t keep going.”
Mr White said: “Evidence suggests that introducing free parking at certain times of the day does not necessarily increase the number of shoppers visiting a town centre – it may just result in people changing the time of day that they shop.
“The county council is keen to support local traders and our town centres but in order to encourage and promote economic growth we must look at a wide range of factors, not just parking.
“We are already working on a regeneration masterplan for Bishop Auckland, which aims to maximise the town’s potential, including retail opportunities.”
Comments are closed on this article.