Saturday, 30 March 2013

Cut free parking, council says

COUNCIL bosses want hotels and supermarkets to cut free parking in Solihull – as they announce plans to hike but cut some charges.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council hopes the moves will help it stave off a massive drop in takings at its car parks, which have been hit by a drop in recession-hit visitors.

But traders have said the fall has been made worse by the recent introduction at Mell Square of pay and display instead of pay on foot, where shoppers pay when leaving the car park.

The council has said the introduction of three hours free parking at Morrisons supermarket has hit takings and it should now “review the arrangements Morrisons implement” there.

A new report says the councilwill “explore any further opportunities to work with supermarkets and hotels to try and reduce the current level of free parking within the town centre”.

Meanwhile, it will look at putting up the one, two and three hour tariffs by at least 10p and the night rate by 20p to £1.50.

It admits this could see drivers “seek alternative parking of travel arrangements” or push parking into residential streets.

But it will consider cutting the over six hour rate at Mell Square - £8.20 Monday to Saturday – to £5 in a bid to compete with Touchwood, where eight to 12 hours is £11.

The report says: “This may move existing long stay parkers from Touchwood,  freeing up space for shoppers and may attract long stay parkers from Monkspath into the town centre.”

Other ideas to boost use of car parks include displaying the number of free spaces on
electronic highway signs instead of just whether the car park is open or closed.

The council will also look at better signing to car parks and stronger promotion of the facilities.

The Silhillian this month reported that Lode Lane car park will scrap pay on foot for pay and display from April and the Mell Square trial has been extended to December.

Mell Square bosses said the introduction of the system last April at Mell Square car park had put drivers off. Use at all car parks fell from 690,000 in 2005 to 500,000 in 2011.

But the council said it was facing a £250,000 bill to repair vandalised pay on foot machines while pay and display machines were cheaper and easier to maintain. Drivers can top up pay-and-display by phone.

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