Shopping and parking

There seems to be virtual unanimity on this site that high charges for parking, and difficulty in parking in or near Town Centres is an important contributory cause to the decline in use of High Street shops. It is true that out of town centres and retail parks with plenty of free parking near to the shops have a distinct advantage, as does the internet. I will have another go at making this case as part of the debate on how to revive or improve town centres.

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46 Comments

  1. David Price
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    If looking to improve/revive town centres, why must they be synonymous with retail, specifically “shopping”?

    • Hope
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Why is Javid still in post? Totally incompetent on all matters relating to local authorities, housing and insulting Tory core voters.

      You blog about inflation and wages and fail to highlight the massive community charge hike plus add ons! We pay so many extra taxes through our community charge from when it was a rates bill. Scotts do not pay for water or sewage do they? Scotts do not pay prescriptions do they? Scotts students do not university fees do they? The money comes from the same tax pot! Tories do not even allow an English parliament after Cameron promised EVEL on TV on the steps of Downing Street. So lmany lies by the Tory Govt. it is hard to keep count. However, Tories have delivered Evil.

      • Hope
        Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        JR, motorists already paid a heavy price for roads and fleeced again by councils to park in the same roads in High Streets!

        Still no mention of NHB and CIL raised and spending by all councils around the country, why no rebuttable from Javid when councils make claims of grant cuts even from Tory councils? Why is May prepared to give welfare benefits toEU citizens not yet born or set a foot in the country while fleecing for every penny she can? Why is the £3.75 billion of EU Defelopment Fund not shown on govt books? Why have Tory Govt failed to keep its promises on adult social care? It appears the Tory Govt is content for councils to get the blame for raising even more taxes than the blame torest with central govt.

        • a-tracy
          Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          Good questions

          • David Price
            Posted April 23, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

            There are questions in there?

            I don’t bother reading Hope’s posts as they are typically nothing to do with the post s(he) hijacks just so s(he) can get close to the start of the comments.

  2. Adam
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    A key attraction of the High St is the interest of difference: Independent operators.

    Too many centres have become multiple clone-gluts of over-familiar national chains.

    If every destination is stuck in sameness, travel lacks purpose.

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Some chains even run at a loss until they’ve utterly killed the competition.

      Alas homogeny is the future.

    • Monty
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      One of the things a town centre can provide, to overcome the monotony of the chain store effect, is a market. Reasonable stall rentals with vehicular access for the stall-holders, decent clean public conveniences and maybe shopping carts for the customers, maybe some space for attractions for the bairns. Give it a web page or facebook page so you can announce the stalls, and coming attractions eg a WI stall selling home made cakes and preserves, sale of works by a local artist, that kind of thing. Attract folk to that, and after they’ve done the market they have a look round the local shops and cafes too.

  3. Peter Miller
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I am not sure if high parking charges, or the ease of use of Amazon Prime and other online retailers, is the more important factor in why I have not shopped in nearby Windsor for over a decade.

    Another factor about Windsor is I get incensed seeing well meaning/gullible people giving money to those who are clearly not beggars and who are only seeking to fund a drinks or drug habit.

    • Adam
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      The continuous flow of 1st-time tourists prevents those folks’ awareness from experience of being conned.

      Licensing beggars & rough sleepers visibly might help improve town centres. Needy cases could gain assisted sleeping cover in supervised dedicated zones, with simple medical check, toilet & nutrition. Maybe use a park overnight, with some daytime litter duty.

      Cheaters could be compelled to report to police daily, or leave for a town that does not care.

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      The useless police should be dealing with the ‘beggars’. Alas their minds are on higher things such as diversity.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      “I get incensed seeing well meaning/gullible people giving money to those who are clearly not beggars and who are only seeking to fund a drinks or drug habit”. Me too but many are not even drug or drink addicts they are often professional beggars claiming benefits and getting this tax free cash on top, which can be over £100 a day. Perhaps not as good at the Lord’s tax free daily allowance of £300 (plus subsidised bars and restaurants) but not too bad on top of free rent, rates and benefits.

  4. BOF
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    For the majority of people living in the countryside there is no realistic alternative to driving into town so demonising drivers will keep them away and divert them to out of town malls etc.

    If councils want town centres to flourish then they should make as much parking available as cheaply as possible. It is to their advantage.

  5. agricola
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Yes it is very important. Once you accept that the pattern of retailing, thanks to the internet, out of town centres, and shopping malls , will change the character of a town centre, you are on your way to deciding what sort of town centre you want.

    Take Worcester for example. I think the city has around 80,000 population and growing. It has a large rural catchment area. It has around 2400 council run parking spaces. It encourages national and international street markets. Over recent years there has been a proliferation of cafes and restaurants across the spectrum. They have recently tried with some success to rectify some dreadful 1960’s architectural mistakes. It is a town with an entrepreneurial rosy glow. I do not claim it to be perfect, but I have never failed to find somewhere to park on my occasional visits. Average costs of parking a car are £0.50 for 30 minutes, £0.90 for an hour, £3.15 for three hours. In the last case a small addition to the price of a meal for two.

    Everything considered, I think the Burghers of Worcester are doing a good job. There is always room for improvement or doing it faster, but on balance I have no complaints.

  6. behindthefrogs
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    It is not just parking the location of bus stops has a similar effect. Wokingham must be one of the few towns of its size where the main bus route has only one stop in the shopping area. There is a need for a stop at the All Saints end of the town.

  7. Ed Mahony
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I think part of the problem is that there’s a serious problem with the aesthetic quality of our town centres – i.e. they’re often ugly and stressful places to be. People don’t want that, especially, when 1. You can shop so easily on the internet 2. When shopping is so much about the ‘experience’ not just getting something 3. People are used to shopping in charming places on holiday.

    We can blame the following for this: 1) Nazis bombs 2) Much more importantly, town planners with hardly any imagination / appreciation of beauty in architecture 3) Ugly / crass signage and advertising

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      As someone whose worked in advertising / marketing, advertisers will tell you that there are lots of clever ways of promoting your products without ugly / crass signage and advertising. Not only can this put people off town centres, it can often put people off brands (unless, town centres are just going to be for cheap brands, in which case, that will put off lots of people from visiting town centres …).

  8. Timaction
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Good idea Mr Redwood. It is a hassle having to retain sufficient coins to pay Councils for parking as well as exorbitant Council taxes. Its simply a way to fleece motorists instead of encouraging them to support local businesses.

  9. formula57
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Town centre parking also often suffers from too compact slots for modern vehicles and hence there is off-putting risk of damage. Vehicle manufacturers keep introducing ever wider products and car parks do not adjust in step.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      You can Park ok but then have to climb out of the window as you cannot open the doors!

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      formula57

      Pleased someone other than me thinks about damage to cars because parking spaces are simply too tight.

      Whenever it is convenient I( take my 20 year old truck into Town if we have to go in) because of its now low value.
      So far it has accumulated 15 small dents due to the opening of car doors and trollies by other people, I have not been responsible for any damage at all, and I take care to park as far away from other vehicles as possible, when possible.

      • Cheshire Girl
        Posted April 22, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        I lived in the USA for 15 years, and parking was so much easier, as the spaces were wider and ‘on the slant’(dont know how else to describe it). I just know it was so much easier to get in and out of them. Why on earth cant we do that here in the UK?

        • a-tracy
          Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          M&S do in Warrington, great car park

        • alan jutson
          Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

          Cheshire Girl

          Understand exactly where you are coming from.

          Friend of our was in charge of Construction of all Costco site in the south of England.

          Costco put in planning permission to build the Reading Outlet and were told by the Council that their car parking spaces where too large and therefore planning would likely be refused.

          They said they are the parking spaces that are standard in all our stores, we will not be making them smaller for anyone, take it or leave it, there are plenty of other sites we can develop.

          They got their permission with the standard American sizes.

          Wish they could advise on the EU negotiations.!

  10. Iain Gill
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    What about car park charges at English hospitals…

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Well they cannot charge for the treetment due to the NHS, the free at the point of rationing and poor treatment religion.

      So they get you on the parking instead.

    • Monty
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      When considering parking charges at hospitals, let us bear in mind that law of unintended consequences.
      Many of our hospitals are in city centre locations. They are in zones where there is already pressure on parking spaces. If you made the hospital car park free, that car park would fill up every day with city centre workers, shoppers, visitors, and there would be no space for the patients and hospital staff at all.
      Be careful what you wish for, lest you get it.

      • a-tracy
        Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        That’s not the case in Crewe Monty, they don’t have enough car parking spaces, especially near the maternity unit, which is very stressful for heavily expectant Mums with other kiddies in tow and a school collection deadline to meet and an appointment to be on time for. It’s in the middle of fields, nowhere near the town centre and regular, frequent public transport 7 days a week for a town for 30,000 residents just isn’t there.

      • a-tracy
        Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        The North Staffs hospital is also not in the Town Centre, parking there is atrocious and expensive and the multi story is frankly frightening to walk to as a lone female if your visiting family in the dark!

      • Dan H.
        Posted April 23, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        St James’ hospital in Leeds has a novel solution to car parking problems: build a multi-storey car park with sufficient capacity for the anticipated need and then some.

        Yes, I know, goes against the grain of British town planning by actually doing something useful, doing it well and anticipating future needs but up north, we have these strange iconoclastic designers who have IQs up over 100!

        I do believe that they even have an approach to regular users in that a discount can be obtained, whereas non-hospital users pay the full costs. Like I say, staggeringly futuristic and all that.

  11. Lifelogic
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, also the way the parking is charged by phone having to put reg numbers in and decide in advance how long you need risking what for many are very large fines indeed.

    To revive convert to more residential, lower taxes, cut regulation, cut rates, relax planning and get gov out of the essentially parasitic way.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Lots of people might buy and convert shop and offices to flats to let but we have all Hammond’s absurd anti-tenant taxes and then possibly landlord would be thief Corbyn.

  12. Atlas
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Some towns seem to think that they are doing you a favour by charging lots of money just to let you shop in their town centres. Market forces apply here just as much as eleswhere in the economy – so customers who can take their business elsewhere.

  13. John P McDonald
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    There does not seem to be much of a town centre left now in Wokingham, just a traffic Jam and building site to be avoided.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    It is quite clear that parking is a racket to fund both diversity coordinators and central government.

    The local public loos have been closed. How can this happen while diversity coordinators are protected ?

    We are utterly oppressed with political correctness. I wish I could say they’re taking the piss but they’re not even up to that, it seems.

  15. Ron Olden
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    There is no amount of Parking in Town Centres which will make them shopping hubs. It will always be more convenient and cheaper for people to do the bulk of their shopping in out of town stores or in the Internet.

    Town Centre business environments need to change to make them places where people want to go, not necessarily to shop. but instead to be seen, to socialise and even to live.

    The shops that do exist there need to move on to selling things more appropriate to that sort of environment.

  16. libertarian
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I own and run a business in a lovely town in Kent. The car parking charges have just risen to £10 per day and they’ve closed two more car park. A Conservative councillor at a meeting when told that car parking was driving ( excuse the pun ) people away to an out of town mall in another district , replied so what ?

    That I’m afraid is the level of thinking with bible dwelling local councillors

    Sadly I dont live in the town where my business is, so I can’t vote to remove the idiot

    • libertarian
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      bubble dwelling ,

    • a-tracy
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Not only can you not ‘vote for the idiot’ they also won’t represent you or your business in local area issues and problems because you don’t live in his/her territory, even if they’re the person who meets with the local council on a regular basis and your staff are their voters, it’s ridiculous.

  17. David L
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe (or am I just naive?) that Wokingham Borough are still charging full business rates to the diminishing number of shops in the town centre while the endless regeneration drags on and on. The prospect of Starbucks, Aldi and other multiples hardly excites me. And where are all the litter bins? Most of them have disappeared, along with the footfall!

    • a-tracy
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Do you still have benches? If you do there’s a bonus!

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      David L

      A family member spoke to one of the Independent traders who has been in the Town for decades last week, they are on their last legs, they see no future other than closing.

      Also advised that the small shop units in the new Rose Street Plaza will have rents of approx £50,000 per week, on top of that business rates, heat, light, power, water rates, and the usual insurances.

      Wokingham Councillors do not seem bothered about the local businesses at all.

      No one in their right mind visits Wokingham at all now unless desperate, as all the vacant car park spaces a plenty show.
      A disaster of a Town Centre for the last 12 months..

  18. woodsy42
    Posted April 21, 2018 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just the cost of parking, it’s the restriction it creates. You pay for an hour, or two, then set about doing things – but many activities cannot be timed in advance so the visit becomes a race, stresful doing just the essential business, with no time to relax or chat with friends, enjoy a coffee, browse or do any of the things that would make a visit pleasant. Consequently visiting town is akin to a ‘distress purchase’. Add the visitor hostile environment of beggars, drunks, predatory parking and litter wardens, bus lane fines, conjestion and it’s no wonder people stay away.
    In stark contrast near me there is an out of town shopping ‘village’ Free unrestricted parking, full of small specialist shops (some having moved there away from the town!), along a pedestrian ‘street’ area, spotlessly clean, no troublemakers, beggars or drunks and it’s full of people and families shopping, smiling, relaxed and being happy.

  19. a-tracy
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    John, car parking charges are a pain especially for retired people on a fixed income and who wants to add £10 to their weekly outgoings when you can get everything you need from a supermarket every week and a monthly visit to an outlet village!

    Town A is. Perfect example, the council sold off two large free car parks which were always busy the town was not only thriving but constantly busy. Over the next decade the two supermarkets built on the car parks have virtually killed off the Town Centre, you can’t park in their free car parks for long enough to go to Town for a walk around -and – do your food shopping, other parking is limited and expensive, but as the independent retailers that the supermarket killed off went there is hardly any reason to go into Town anyway! Then they put a tram stop to take the remaining younger people to a nearby shopping mall to while away their weekends in spending their parents money, I give the Town another five years max if a couple of the large department stores have to close especially and they’re always empty so it may not be that much further away.

  20. a-tracy
    Posted April 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Town B has free parking for now, if the Council go ahead with charging for parking it will be just another nail in the Town’s coffin, it is a poor 1960’s design, unattractive shops nearly all low end retail and charity shops, the supermarket expanded their range and connected the multi-storey to their store restricting time and voila the markets dead on its feet and one after one independent retailers go. The shopping centre is half what it was 20 years ago and I just hardly ever go, there is nothing I want to buy there, even the Boots is dark and dull, but I used to go. I hope the government aren’t just using this issue to hammer online retailers because as another blogger pointed out they have warehouse staff and costs, distribution costs, order takers call centre costs.

    Today our local outlet village was bouncing busy, none of the free car park spaces to be had by lunch time, shops all full, cafes doing a roaring trade, one restaurant was queuing six couples outside to wait for a table! Most shoppers there were key demographic 20-50, smokers have benches and ashtrays, people can walk their pets around, it has covered walkways but it’s in the fresh air with lots of open space and flowers and shrubs (compare that to my local town centre we have a few pots of dead daffodils! Kids whizzing past on bicycles), free clean toilets, changing areas for babies, toilets for dads with toddlers, lovely cafe’s, wife variety of small retailers and larger retailers, no people trying to sign up you up for all sorts or homeless people on every corner, some of the shops should be checked for health and safety because they put too much stock in the isles restricting access and egress and generally making it uncomfortable for people especially parents with pushchairs or wheelchairs (another good accessibility reason to go to the mall easy for buggies and wheelchairs). One store has people queuing to pay for about 2o minutes I won’t shop there for that reason but good for them if their clients are mug enough to stand in hot queues for so long. Lots of discounts to be had so you feel like you can find a bargain, in fact lots of items here are cheaper than the discount brand shops in our local town centre! The only thing they have missing is a Wilkos 😄

  21. Iain Gill
    Posted April 23, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The contrast between other countries and the UK is significant.

    Other places are much more car friendly, and make it possible to shop, eat out, and so much more by parking on wide open roads, free car parking and so on.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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