John Redwood argues against new parking charges for Wokingham

John Redwood has written to the overview and scrutiny panel at Wokingham Borough Council to outline his opposition to proposals for new car parking charges in the borough. In his letter, John argues that the new charges will increase costs, require substantial capital investment, and entail additional annual expenditure. John argues that Wokingham’s small traders would suffer as a result of any decision to implement additional parking charges, and says the council should instead offer free parking for the first couple of hours for shoppers using the town centre’s council owned car parks.

The full text of John’s submission to Wokingham Borough Council now follows:

“I am writing to oppose the imposition of new car parking charges and meters in Wokingham.

I understand this has emerged form a Councillor led initiative to reduce costs. This proposal, far from reducing costs, will increase them sharply. It requires substantial capital investment in meters and supporting systems, and will entail substantial annual expenditure on servicing the meters, running the payment and supervision systems and collecting the cash. I fully support reductions in costs and overheads. A suitable start would be to stop proposals and consultations like this, which must be costly to produce.

The case against higher and more parking charges is very simple. The town centre of Wokingham has been weakened by the delay of the developer in implementing the planning application granted to him to renovate and improve the town centre, and by the subsequent delay in finding an alternative way forward to improve the shops. There are some good shops and hard working shop keepers in the town, but the empty shops and blank frontage especially in Peach Street detracts from the total retail offer. Wokingham also faces stiff competition from Reading, the Meadows and other neighbouring centres.

In this situation Wokingham can still offer something the larger centres cannot offer – shorter journeys and easier access to shops. Most people will come to shop in Wokingham by car. We need to make them feel welcome, and provide free or low cost parking which is easy to use.

I have in the past urged the Council to make its own extensive car park available free to Saturday shoppers. I think now we need to go further, and to offer free parking for the first couple of hours for shoppers using a couple of the town centre Council owned parks, with a rebate offered through town centre shops participating in the scheme.

The last thing we need is intrusive meters on streets, with a new army of traffic wardens enforcing the rules. Not only will it be dearer for shoppers, but it will change the atmosphere, making people less inclined to come. We need a more welcoming town, not a less welcoming one.”

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6 Comments

  1. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    It is a good few years since I last went shopping in Wokingham, usually on the way home from work. From what I remember of it, I would say you are pretty much on the button as to what should be done. And done elsewhere, too.

    Here in Bromyard, empty shop windows have been made available to enterprising, local people to put on historical displays, which at the very least shows the community care about how their Town looks.

  2. Posted June 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I agree completely with you on this.

  3. Helene
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    The introduction of extreme parking restrictions has played a large role in devastating the high streets of towns right across this country. It is so difficult to park and shop locally it is hardly surprising that people are voting with their wallets for out of town centre shopping malls that offer free parking to boot.

    Combined with the perverse way in which taxation policy has encouraged clone high streets throughout the land, it is really ripping the soul from many British towns.

    Starbucks, anyone?

  4. Posted June 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree. Once Wokingham becomes just a little more inconvenient, I (and no doubt many others) will be off to Reading more often, with its huge car parking capacity.

    There may will be a tipping point beyond which shoppers will lose patience and once they move elsewhere we will be hard pushed to get them back to Wokingham again.

    I suspect there are many councils around the country wondering about how to increase revenue. I wonder if any studies have been done following increased parking charges and an increase in inconvenience? I find it hard to believe that a town prospers as a result.

  5. Matt
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    We have to assume that the Council has costed the proposal and has concluded that it will make money. It isn’t a cost saving exercise it is revenue generating (i.e. a further local tax – which is what I object to). However the town does need something to force people to use the parking fairly. As a local resident (something I know you’re not , John) I see parking spaces supposedly for short term parking being used by the same cars all day all week. How can this be helping local shops?

    And to emphasise your lack of local knowledge – the main Council office car park has been free to the public on Saturdays for years.

    As you point out car parking isn’t the reason the town centre is struggling.

    Reply: For heaven’s sake, I live near the town and come there regularly. I lobbied to get free parking on Saturdays at WBC offices.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Thank you John.

    Who would go into Town for a quick one off purchase of goods at say Robert Dyas, the photocpy shop, the film processing shop, to get a Prescruiption, if you have to pay to park the car.

    Who would meet friends in Town for a Cup of Coffee and a chat, when Garden Centres/Hotels are available.

    It would be one more nail in the coffin of the Town centre if charges are introduced for short term parking.

    The Town Council should listen, and learn.

    Visitors need to be encouraged, local businesses need to survive, otherwise its another empty shop.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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