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.”