Council car parking to stay free - But senior Labour councillor slams policy as ‘uncosted’
South Gloucestershire Council’s policy of free car parking is to stay in place, delighting Conservative councillors.
The authority’s Conservative Group had tabled a motion at yesterday’s (18th July) Council meeting calling for free car parking to be retained as Council policy now that all three political parties have recently started to run the council through a series of old style committees.
Although keeping free parking received wide support when councillors voted, Labour’s Lead Councillor for Communities criticised the policy as ‘uncosted’.
Free parking was introduced across the district in 2004 when the five year Conservative campaign achieved the removal of charges in Kingswood.
Whilst the council’s previous Conservative Cabinet had pledged to retain free parking, it was unclear what might happen under the old-style ‘committee system’ that the council now operates to make decisions and set policy.
Downend Conservative councillor Kathy Morris, a former leader of the South Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce and local Business Link, said:
“Free parking is so important to communities across South Gloucestershire.
For our residents, it makes it easier for them to support their local traders at a time when household finances are stretched and for those who live close to town centres and High Streets, it lessens the possibility of shoppers parking their cars in nearby residential streets to avoid car park fees.
For our traders, getting customers through their shop doors helps them to stay afloat during what are incredibly difficult economic times.
As a former leader of the South Gloucestershire Chamber of Commerce and local Business Link, I can tell you that South Gloucestershire traders are the envy of their colleagues in neighbouring authority areas where parking is not free.”
Hanham Conservative councillor June Bamford comments:
“Free parking is essential in supporting the commercial vibrancy and success of our town and local centres.
It keeps money in the pockets of local people who can then spend it in their local shops.
It took five years of campaigning to achieve free car parking as Council policy and I’m delighted that we have got agreement for it to be retained.”
Speaking after the meeting, Deputy Conservative Group Leader and Severn ward councillor, Matthew Riddle, added:
“A lot of investment and effort has gone into supporting our town and local centres over recent years and to inflict parking charges would undo all that good work at a stroke.
Our two-year council tax freeze has saved the average local household £93 – we shouldn’t cancel that out by saddling residents with car parking charges when all they want do to is support their town centres and high streets by shopping locally.
This is especially true for the Severn ward residents that I represent, many of whom regularly carry out their shopping in Thornbury, where they know they can park for free.”
PHOTO: L to R: Hanham councillors June Bamford, Heather Goddard and John Goddard at the free Laburnum Road car park in Hanham, South Gloucestershire
Text of ‘Conservative Motion: Retention of free car parking’
This Council believes that supporting the commercial vibrancy and success of our town centres and local centres is critical to the well-being of our local communities.
Council recognises that our traditional town centres and local centres face intense competitive pressures from large retail units which offer, amongst their attractions, the ability to park for free.
Council considers that the introduction of car parking charges would therefore prevent our town and local centres competing on a level playing field and could cripple their competitiveness and lead to damaging shop closures, such as in Chipping Sodbury, Filton, Hanham, Kingswood, Mangotsfield, Staple Hill and Thornbury. This would undo much of the work and significant investment made by the Council in seeking to support these areas.
Council also considers that the introduction of car parking charges could create a serious and considerable parking problem in residential roads and put yet more financial pressure on already-stretched household budgets.
Council therefore considers that the retention of free car parking is of vital importance in supporting our town and local centres, as well as local households, and should remain Council policy.
Info on South Gloucestershire car parking can be found on the council’s website: