Council considers free parking for city centre shoppers

Late-night shoppers visiting Coventry city centre could soon be parking for free thanks to plans being discussed by Coventry City Council tomorrow. After weeks of bad news for the high street councillors hope that the plan will bring more shoppers into the city centre and reverse years of decline.

The most recent statistics produced by the Council show that in the second quarter of 2018 there were a staggering 54 empty units in the city centre - this compares to just 22 in the same period in 2005. The figures also show that car park use was down at the end of last year by 0.5% and use of on-street parking bays fell by 4.2%.

In recent times the Government and the Mayor of the West Midlands have provided millions of pounds to support exciting regeneration plans in the city centre. However, the recent sharp decline in retail has raised concerns about how this will be done. 

In recent weeks several big high street retailers have issued profit warnings and implemented store closure programmes. In the longer-term many analysts now believe that the internet poses an existential threat to the high street as we know it. They’ve warned that cities will need to diversify their offer if they are to succeed. 

Conservatives have embraced this idea and have pledged to make Coventry city centre the UK’s number one destination for small start-up IT companies. However, they also believe that good accessibility is key to attracting shoppers into the city centre. To achieve this they pledged to retain pool meadow bus station and to trial a free parking scheme in their manifesto at this year’s local elections.

The Council use car parking as a way of raising funds and any plans to roll out free parking would incur a cost. However, Conservatives argue that it would bring more shoppers into the city centre allowing the Council to earn more through increased rental income and business rates. 

The proposal will be put to Councillors at a meeting of all members on Tuesday by Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, Cllr Gary Crookes. He'll be supported by former city shopkeeper Cllr Marcus Lapsa who will second the proposal.

Commenting on the plans Cllr Gary Crookes said; “The Government is making a huge investment in our city centre and these are exciting times. However, there’s an uncertain outlook for the high street at the moment and we’ve got to give retailers a helping hand. By offering free parking on a trial basis we can encourage more shoppers to visit the city centre and learn from the experience. If it’s successful it could then be rolled out on a more permanent basis.” 

Backing the proposal Cllr Marcus Lapsa said; “Free parking on its own won’t resolve the problems on the high street - there’s a much bigger discussion to be had about how our cities will look in the future. However we must do everything we can to support retailers in the city centre. If those shops thrive it’s great for residents and they’ll pay back more to the Council in business rates in the end.”