Parking charges suspension 'the best news for traders'
Short-term parking charges will be suspended in Biddulph for the month of August and volunteers have agreed to monitor the knock-on effect it has on the high street.
The suspension starts next Saturday (1st August).
Parking will be free in the town for the first three hours with a review of the suspension to take place in the third week of August.
It is hoped that the free parking will increase in Biddulph and encourage residents to support local businesses as they reopen after lockdown.
At a meeting of Biddulph Town Council last Tuesday, Independent councillor John Jones said: “Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has decided to suspend short-term parking charges, so the first three hours of parking will be free for the month of August.
“The machines are going to be recalibrated by Saturday, 1st August, to issue a free ticket, but after three hours you will have to pay.
“The footfall and the parking is going to be reviewed again in the third week of August by the district council to decide what to do next.”
Independent Coun Wayne Rogers, who has worked on High Street for 46 years, said it was “the best news for traders” that he had heard in years, though he also said that he would like to see the charges suspended indefinitely, not just for a month.
The meeting heard that the town council should use the time “effectively” to gather data on a predicted increase in footfall both before and after the charges are suspended. The town council would then be able to use the evidence to argue for an extension of the suspended charges beyond August.
Labour Coun Kevin Jackson said: “I think we should take an in-depth survey from now until Saturday, 1st August, to see what sort of traffic there currently is on the car park and on neighbouring streets.
“Then, record the amount of traffic throughout August when the charges are suspended to compare the data.
“It's time to make a good database - it will allow us to go to the district council and demonstrate the difference that the suspension of parking charges has made.”
Coun Jones agreed: “That was my concern: what happens at the end of August? We can't just slap the charges back on again.
“If the footfall has significantly increased, there will hopefully be an option to extend the free parking a bit longer. If it hasn't made any difference, I suspect the district council will say that it will be putting the charges back on and they're never coming back off again.”
A number of councillors volunteered to take photos daily of the number of cars parked in the town both before and after the charges are suspended to use as evidence.
However, Independent Coun Dave Hawley had some concerns: “I think some people might still be a bit reticent to come out shopping, so I just wonder whether the figures that we get in August might give a false reading.
“We're not going to get vast numbers of people coming into the town and, potentially, the district council could argue that the suspension of charges makes no difference.”