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Sainsbury's 1 - Shepway 0: Store shows Council the way in encouraging shoppers to Folkestone

January 3, 2009 9:00 AM
Tim Prater

Shepway and Folkestone Lib Dem Councillor Tim Prater: charges keep rising even as shops and car parks get emptier. Rising charges are no way to run a business, and no way to run a Council.

Shepway Lib Dem Councillor Tim Prater is calling on Shepway Council to follow the lead of Sainsbury's in Folkestone in encouraging people to park and shop in the town. Sainsbury's currently offer 30 minutes free parking to any user in its Folkestone Town Centre store (with up to 2 hours free for Sainsbury's shoppers) and free parking after 5pm. Shepway run car parks charge for any length stay.

Tim Prater said:

"In difficult financial times the Council need to look at innovative ways of making the best use of its car parks to encourage people to use them. It makes no sense to keep putting the prices up and driving shoppers elsewhere.

"Parking income to Shepway Council is massively down over the last few months. Any business facing a challenge like that would look at holding a sale to encourage people to use their services - but not Shepway Council it seems. Half empty car parks make no sense for anyone - full car parks charging less could make as much money, and be a hugely welcome boost to local businesses.

"Shepway need to urgently look at following Sainsbury's lead in offering free short term parking to encourage people to 'pop in' in town and free evening parking. They should look at cutting parking charges overall - in a way that encourages people into town.

"Shepway could also look at other routes to make parking better in Folkestone. For example looking to make an income off the Shepway Civic Centre car park that is empty and locked at weekends. How about offering a '£2 park all day' scheme there at weekends giving a realistically priced long term parking option for those prepared to walk a little further?

"Instead of proposing massive hikes to the cost of parking season tickets for next year, why not promote the scheme and try to increase take-up? Season ticket holders may be paying less to park per hour, but its still money in the bank for Shepway.

"And instead of seeking to make a massive £25,000 extra out of Sandgate's car parks (up from £5,000 this year), why not work with Sandgate Council positively to try to retain and improve the scheme that works there?

"Sandgate Council currently paying a fee to keep parking free, which gives Shepway guaranteed income instead of a target they'll never meet as people currently using the car parks will instead use local roads increasingly the parking problem there. Shepway could build a model for the district, town and parish councils to work together to have the parking our area needs - but instead seem hell-bent on introducing charges which will damage Sandgate and, I predict, raise nothing like the money they have guestimated."

"There are lots of ways that Shepway could take the lead in getting people into our towns and villages with a proactive approach to using the car parks that are available. Instead, charges keep rising even as shops and car parks get emptier. It's no way to run a business, and no way to run a Council."