National headlines boost Harrogate free parking campaign
The front page headlines of a national newspaper at the weekend have boosted Harrogate traders' campaign for more free parking.
The headline saying "£1nb parking charges killing off our shops" appeared in the Sunday Express.
The battle for more free parking in Harrogate town centre has also won the backing of a leading trade association representing thousands of members across the UK.
Two weeks after a group of more than 30 independent shops and restaurants launched a petition calling for three hours free parking in the town centre, the chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association has thrown his weight behind the campaign.
Both North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council may have rejected the proposal but BIRA’s Andrew Goodacre says the idea has a proven track record elsewhere.
He said: “Introducing an element of convenient free parking is crucial to increasing footfall. I’ve seen it in places such as Oldham, Rugby, Barnsley, Wigan, Rotherham and Ashford.
“BIRA believe that there needs to be large availability free parking in every town and on every high street, and not just in those areas away from the town centre.”
Mr Goodacre, who lived in Harrogate for 16 years previously, said no one was trying to pretend that online shopping was going to go away.
He said: “We all accept that the way people shop has changed.
“The biggest challenge facing retail is matching the convenience of internet shopping and removing the existing barriers. For the retailers this may mean changing opening hours, developing better websites, etc.
“But they need other barriers removed, and car parking in terms of both availability and cost, is a problem for shoppers and retailers.
“BIRA believe that there needs to be large availability of free parking in every town and on every high street, and not just in those areas away from the town centre.”
So far more than 1,500 people have signed the 'Free 3 Hour Parking in Harrogate' petition at change.org
The views of the leader of national independent retailers echo those of one of the petition’s main organisers, Nicholas Richardson, director of Woods Fine Linens: Luxury Linens & Interior Design.
He argues that local authorites should be doing more to help the retail sector for the good of the town.
He said: “We all want the best for Harrogate. Business is thriving in Malton since their free parking initiative. Why don’t North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council try free parking in Harrogate? It should be leading the way with a blueprint for other towns and taking action now before we end up like Darlington.”
The local councils argue Harrogate town centre already has thousands of free disc parking spaces available and that further free parking is not the answer.