'Slight increase' in footfall so far after suspension of parking charges

It is unclear whether the suspension of short term parking charges in Biddulph has yet had an impact on enticing more people into the town, according to one volunteer monitoring the effect on the high street.
The lifting of charges in August was announced by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council as part of its action plan to “kick start” the post-lockdown recoveries of local towns, and has now been in place in Biddulph for almost two weeks.
Since Saturday, 1st August, the first three hours of parking have been free - but drivers still need to collect a ticket from the machine.
According to town mayor Coun John Jones, there has not yet been a “definitive result” on the effect of the suspension, but he said it appeared that there had been a “slight increase” in footfall and that the Wharf Road car park was being used more.
Coun Jones is one of a number of town councillors who volunteered at a recent meeting to monitor the effects of the suspension by photographing local car parking spaces daily.
The volunteers hope to establish whether the parking charge suspension has any effect on traffic in the town so that the town council has evidence to argue for the continued suspension of parking charges after August.
Coun Jones told the Chronicle that he would ideally like to see the charges suspended until at least the end of the year.
He said: “We are a week and a bit into the charges being removed and at the minute there's no real indication as to the effect that it has had.
“There has been a slight increase in footfall in the last two or three days, but there is no definitive result showing yet. I am encouraged by the fact that the Wharf Road car park is being used more - whether that is putting more people on the high street, I'm not sure.
“Whatever results we get, we will still do further investigations because we are adamant that the suspension should continue - the sample we are taking is just a precursor for further investigation.”
Coun Jones added: “One problem that we have faced is that, according to anecdotal evidence, some people thought it was just free to park entirely and from what I have heard there were a few fines issued.
“But in summation, it's early days. The weather has picked up this week, so that may have helped.”
Town council chief officer Sarah Haydon said: “The monitoring of the car parking is being led by councillors, but the town council itself is very supportive of any initiative that boosts footfall in Biddulph.
“I have been working throughout the pandemic, so it's really nice to be able to see people around the town centre again. As regards the numbers, we're not yet sure.”
Coun Jones said: “We want to get the town back on its feet as quickly as we can. Truthfully, I still think it's still very early days from being out of the situation.
“For example, it's highly unlikely that there will be any Christmas lights celebrations this year unless things change dramatically between now and then. I don't think that the town council could justify bringing 2,000 to 3,000 people into the town centre standing shoulder to shoulder in all conscience, but we are still planning for everything as normal.
“After lockdown, all we can do is ensure that we're keeping a handle on things and encouraging social distancing if any events are put on by the town council.”
A review of the effects of the suspension of short-term parking charges is also being carried out by the district council. It estimated that the cost of waiving the charges in local towns is around £46,000. It also said that it will review its decision in the third week of this month.