Businesses fight for free parking in Burslem to improve trade
TRADERS are campaigning for free town centre parking in a bid to attract more shoppers and boost business in the area.
Business owners in Burslem say the absence of free parking is making it impossible for them to compete with more popular retail destinations such as Hanley and Newcastle.
They want shoppers to be able to leave their vehicles for 30 minutes without needing a ticket, and a new town centre pay-and-display car park.
Last night, during a public meeting at the Leopard Hotel in Market Place, the traders spelled out their demands.
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They launched a petition, calling for free parking, which will be signed and presented to Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Residents also joined the meeting last night, where Burslem Central councillor Alan Dutton listened to their concerns.
Fred Miller, who has been a butcher in Queen Street for the last 25 years, said he has seen his average takings halved throughout that time.
He said parking would be a key factor in boosting trade.
"I suggest we could even have a scheme where shops offer to give £10 a week to subsidise parking for our customers," the 61-year-old said.
"I, for one, would be prepared to put some money into it.
"Those are the sorts of ideas that have been bandied around before, but what happens? It seems the council doesn't want the administration."
Former Ceramica trustee and Burslem resident Ted Owen called for traders and residents to be united in their demands for bringing more prosperity to the town.
The 72-year-old, pictured left, said: "It really is about time we did something to kickstart this town.
"If we need anything in this town, we need a group of people to force these issues, be it parking or anything else. We need people to get together and negotiate with the council.
"We need a voice. At this particular moment many of us are simply not being heard.
"If Stoke-on-Trent City Council is not interested in Burslem then watch out, because we are going to start fighting."
Steve Jervis, aged 41, who has lived in Westport Road for 13 years, said: "There is surely no good reason to charge for parking here. The only reason I can think of is greed.
"But it's a false economy because you might make money from people parking but it won't bring more money to the town.
"There are all kinds of shops, pubs and clubs here in Burslem yet people are starting to go to other places for lots of different things, simply because it is more convenient."
Mother-of-two Kelly Bates aged 34, who runs Roberta's Bridal wedding dress fitters in Market Place, said: "It's not just parking.
"They need to polish up this town and make it a more attractive place for people to visit."
A spokesman for the city council said: "We have heard from one of the traders and have already taken on board some of her suggestions.
"We will be implementing short-stay parking in Queen Street, and converting bays by KFC back to short-stay.
"The taxi rank will also move over the road, with a loading bay created.
"The reason car parking charges are in place is to restrict all-day parking by traders and visitors.
"A small 25p charge is in place for 15 minutes' parking, and 45p for 30 minutes. In the evening there is a flat £1 charge."