Parking charge increases – or new charges on some spaces – will go ahead despite warnings from Calderdale businesses they could prove “a nail in the coffin.”
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Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Board chair Coun Steven Leigh had called in Cabinet’s decision to introduce a raft of increases or introduction of charges on some spaces that did not have them and invited businessmen from the length and breadth of the borough to speak about what they think it would mean.
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Those speaking said that in tough and changing conditions for the high street businesses needed all the help they can get.
Council officers and Cabinet portfolio holders spoke of the need to both make budget savings councillors had voted for earlier this year and proactively manage parking spaces in major town centre areas so they were available for shoppers
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Councillors voted, although not unanimously and with Coun Geraldine Carter’s (Con, Ryburn) amendment that Cabinet reconsider the issue falling, to release the previous approval decision for implementation.
They agreed charging was a complex issue to get right and Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said he was more than willing to meet business representatives to discuss concerns further and there was the possibility some things could be “tweaked” if there were specific concerns.
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Councillor Leigh said he had called the decision in because high streets were suffering nationally and Calderdale was no exception.
The world was changing with many people buying things from their living room while out-of-town shopping centres offered free parking – businesses needed help.
“So we want to encourage shopping in town as a good experience so they need all the help we can give them.
“With out-of-town shopping people don’t like paying for parking so that’s still a massive threat not just in Calderdale but through the country.
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“I contend more could be lost economically by increasing parking charges than will be gained for the council,” he said.
Businessman Roger Harvey of Harveys of Halifax, a family-run department store in the town, said he was there to ask councillors to help keep jobs in the town by helping business.
“The decision to increase charges is short-sighted, it is a nail in the coffin to the local businesses struggling to survive,” he said.
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Provision was also an issue with perception all-important to attract shoppers, he said, adding “there’s a perception that Halifax is difficult to park in.”
He later added Halifax’s economy relied on its local, regular shoppers, as well as attracting visitors from further afield.
At Commercial Street if you used nearby short stay on-street parking and wanted to call in for coffee, it increased prices and put people off coming.
Councillor Carter agreed the £1.40 for an hour for parking close to the store added a sum yet other areas were cheaper to park. It was a question of fairness.
Jason Gregg, manager of the Woolshops centre, Halifax, spoke about experiences there and told the meeting councils or shopping centres operating parking needed to make sure good service was in place before putting up the parking prices.
Todmorden Market Hall traders Nick Fielden and Tony Thomas said Todmorden Market had won Best Small market title in the country and Burnley Road, on which it stands, just been voted “rising star” high street – but during the week particularly it needed help when footfall was “terrible”, possibly by making a portion of parking time on Bramsche Square free for drivers and shoppers.
Other speakers from Halifax BID (business improvement district) and Halifax Borough Market outlined problems they had encountered.
The council’s Head of Neighbourhoods, Andrew Pitts, said the council had a zoning approach to parking where parking was cheaper the further from the centre you got, and in the inner zones there was a more rapid turnover of spaces ensuring people coming into town could easily find one. Demand exceeded supply for inner zone places.
“The increases that are proposed are, in my view, both limited and modest,” he said. “What we are trying to do is use parking policy to manage that, to balance supply and demand.”
Data had shown increased use since the last parking review in 2016. “In terms of customer resistance the history we have got shows people are prepared the premium for town centre parking,” he said.
The council’s Assistant Director for Strategic Infrastructure, Steven Lee, said the council was also investing in services for the future, including electric car charging points and an app which would tell drivers exactly where empty spaces were.
Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Coun Susan Press, said charges were modest and in a lot of cases there was no change this time around.
Councillor Collins said: The Government has been encouraging councils to use charging not only for car parking but a whole range of services to somehow deal with huge spending cuts over the last ten years.”
Labour did not have a majority on Calderdale Council and councillors had approved a budget which meant savings of £160,000 in 2018-19 and £340,000 in 2019-20 on parking had to be achieved.
It meant other services could be protected and he doubted people wanted money taken out of fixing potholes, street lighting, road safety and many other services. “Because that is the price,” he said. “The council has to try and find a balance and we absolutely recognise difficulties it might cause,” he said.
The council worked hard, talking to the town boards and BID teams and taking into account points like those raised by Mr Harvey.
It was equally important not to talk Calderdale down – for 50 years there had not been the range of positive stories as those being reported about Halifax now, for example three million visitors to the Piece Hall.
“I understand the points made but we are trying to address these issues and we don’t want to create the impression that somehow our parking charges are turning Halifax into a basket case. That isn’t right, that’s not correct,” he said.
“We have to find a way that when people come into our town centres to shop that they can park at a reasonable price. Our parking charges are reasonable.”
And parking spaces further away from the centre of town were working very well, though no-one had mentioned it.
Councillor James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said a 10p per hour rise was not a great deal of money.
“We have a choice that vote to cut services or take a more balanced approach,” he said.