Harrogate car parks returning close to pre-lockdown levels in sign more shoppers are hitting the high streets

Car park use in Harrogate is recovering close to pre-lockdown levels in a sign that shoppers are creeping back to high streets hammered by coronavirus.

By Jacob Webster
Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 5:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 5:44 pm

Harrogate Borough Council announced at the height of lockdown it was losing around £250,000 a month in car parking revenue as motorists abandoned the roads and stopped using the district's 28 car parks.

But with shoppers now making a steady return to help hard-hit businesses bounce back, the council has revealed it took almost £173,000 in July when bars, restaurants, hairdressers and other non-essential businesses reopened.

During lockdown Harrogate council was losing around £250,000 a month in car parking revenue. In July it took £173,000.

However, the ticket takings are still some way off the July average of £266,000 - something the council is putting down to the still-shutdown events industry and ex-commuters continuing to work from home.

Coun Phil Ireland, the council's cabinet member for carbon reduction and sustainability, said: “Now that shops and bars/restaurants have reopened across the district it’s encouraging to see customers returning to our car parks, should sustainable travel not be an option for them.

“Although figures are improving, it’s worth remembering that a number of people who use our car parks do so for work or attending exhibitions and conferences.

"Due to the fact people continue to work from home, and the events industry is still on hold, these figures will be much lower for this time of year than previous years.”

In March, the council made car parking free across the district in a move to support residents during the pandemic, but it faced criticism when charges were reintroduced on 15 June as non-essential shops reopened.

Some business leaders said the decision didn't help bring shoppers back to high streets, but the council argued it promoted a "healthy turnover of vehicles".

Meanwhile, there are warnings that high streets could still suffer in the future if office staff continue to work from home.

Nationally, it is estimated just one in six workers have gone back to the office despite the government abandoning its "work from home" message and the Prime Minister personally urging staff to return.

Boris Johnson now plans to roll out a media campaign this week that will encourage employers to show staff members what they have done to protect them from Covid-19 and make it safe to return to traditional workplaces.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday this was the right time for many people to return to their offices because children go back to school this week.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter