Free parking plan to increase trade
FREE parking could be introduced on a weekday in a bid to boost town centre trade.
Newcastle Borough Council is considering removing charges at Midway car park on Thursdays as part of plans to lure shoppers to the town's ailing high street.
Businesses have long blamed excessive parking costs for keeping people away from Newcastle town centre.
They say shoppers have either flocked to out-of-town centres with free parking, or chosen to shop online.
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A task and finish group, made up of councillors and business leaders, has made several recommendations after investigating the issue.
The recommendations are:
Free parking at Midway on Thursdays, either all day or from 2pm;
A pay on foot system at Midway Car Park, replacing the current pay-and-display system;
Cashless parking, allowing motorists to pay for parking with credit cars or their mobile phone.
Introducing free parking on Thursdays would see the council lose £71,500 a year, while free parking just after 2pm would cost £27,500.
Lib Dem councillor Robin Studd, said he believed the scheme would increase trade on what is normally a quiet day in the town centre.
He said: "We are trying to be helpful to both residents and businesses. The borough council can't afford to abolish parking charges altogether, and so we looked at introducing free parking at a time when usage is low.
"Thursday has not been a traditional shopping day in Newcastle – it used to be an early closing day. So free parking should do something to change that."
A pay on foot system at Midway would require new barriers and pay stations, which could cost around £125,000, meaning it is unlikely to be introduced anytime soon.
The cashless parking system would require around £2,000 of investment, and could cost a further £1,100 a year through credit card charges.
Carl Evans, president of Newcastle Chamber of Trade and Enterprise, welcomed the plans for free parking
He said: "This is a wonderful idea. It would allow us to see the impact parking charges have on trade in Newcastle. I think this would be very well received by businesses. It would be good to have more events on Thursdays to help draw people in."
Panel members rejected a number of other ideas, such as free parking on all car parks after 6pm, and 'nipper' parking allowing visitors 30 minutes of free parking.
The recommendations will be discussed by the economic development and enterprise committee next Wednesday.