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Government minister hits out at “draconian” parking policies
1:00pm Monday 26th August 2013 in News
A GOVERNMENT minister has reportedly hit out at councils over the “anti-car dogma” that he warns is contributing to the death of traditional high streets.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government Secretary, said “draconian” parking policies and pointless “street clutter” have led to motorists abandoning town centres.
He is also calling on councils to ban speed bumps and parking bollards that put people off travelling to local shops.
The Telegraph adds that Mr Pickles believes Town Halls must also reduce parking charges that “undermine the vitality of town centres”.
The remarks come as the Department of Communities and Local Government plan to issue new planning guidance aimed at forcing councils to make high streets more car-friendly.
Mr Pickles says current rules are “driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out-of-town superstores”.
He said: “Draconian town hall parking policies and street clutter can make driving into town centres unnecessarily stressful and actually create more congestion because of lack of places to park.
“Anti-car measures are driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out of town superstores, taking their custom with them.”
Mr Pickles believes a lack of affordable parking – as well as heavy-handed ticketing policies – is stopping people driving to local shops.
In St Helens the council operates a free after 3pm parking policy and has tended to allow motorists to park without a charge on its car parks in the run up to Christmas.
It also argues that its parking charges are significantly cheaper than other cars. But a pay and display street parking regime brought in several years ago remains controversial – and the parking situation continues to be a topic of debate among independent town centre traders, some of whom believe short stay parking should be free of charge.
Discussing the national picture, Mr Pickles added: “Trying to find somewhere to park has an obstacle course in too many of our towns, cities and seaside resorts.
“Confusing and difficult car parking practices are undermining the economic vitality of the high street and tourist destinations. Over-zealous parking wardens have inflicting real damage on local economies and given many towns and councils a bad name.”
The Cabinet minister added: “Town halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism.”
But a spokesman for the Local Government Association told the BBC said: "Councils work hard to try and boost trade and keep High Streets vibrant through parking incentives such as free short-stay, cheaper evenings and free Sundays.
“Creating more spaces in town and city centres where there is no room for them is simply not the way to draw more shoppers to the High Street.
“Parking measures help avoid congestion in our high streets.
“In fact, the government's own figures show charges in England are falling in real terms while councils invest any revenue back into transport services like filling potholes and road improvement projects.
“The more government continues to intervene in this way, the less flexibility local authorities have to react to the individual needs of local shoppers, residents and traders and support local businesses and High Streets in their area.”
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