Havering Council make u-turn in Essex ‘ghost town’ being ‘killed by parking fees’

One 83-year-old book shop was forced to close, while other struggling businesses claimed they were going to have to pay for their customers’ parking to keep them afloat.But after uproar from residents and business owners, Havering Council has announced a “significant investment worth millions” that is expected to bring life back to the town’s shopping hub.

They say that increased investment from central government, a cash boost from improved waste management and a better than expected surplus from parking fees will now help to provide the investment necessary to address concerns about parking charges.Because without them, shop owners claim Upminster was becoming a “ghost town”.

Why were shops struggling?

Locals are worried about what is going to happen to their high street (Image: Ricci Fothergill)

Times were becoming so hard, one trader was even considering paying for the parking of his customers after costs were put up in the summer.

Until June last year it was free to park in the High Street for up to half-an-hour. However, charges were put in place, meaning customers had to fork out £1.50 for an hour, with a maximum permitted stay of three hours.Recently, local councillors had a vote on whether or not to keep the parking charge, and they voted in favour of it with a 26 to 24 majority.

The Essex ‘ghost town’ being ‘killed by parking fees’ as 83-year-old business shuts

But business owners soon noticed a change in the number of people who were visiting and spending money with them, claiming parking fees were “killing the high street”.Some business owners reported they had seen the number of people visiting the town fall significantly, and now that their footfall is lower, it’s affecting their sales revenue too.Swan Books, a shop that had been on the high street for 83 years, announced it was closing and blamed the parking charges for their fate.

How have the council responded?

Following a “significant investment”, the council claim the issue of parking in the area is being tackled.They claim the changes to parking charges are being paid for through new council investment made possible because central government funding has increased slightly, returning money to residents from higher-than-expected income from pay and display machines as well as less waste being produced.

Havering Council Leader Councillor Damian White said: “It is brilliant news we are able to make a near £2million investment reducing our car parking prices to support the evolution of our high streets and our business.”This has been funded by the first increase by government in the last 10 years after years of difficult decisions.“This is fully funded and will not come at the expense of front line services and will not disadvantage our residents. This goes further than what we have ever proposed.

What changes are being brought in and when?

The council’s decision means the following changes will be implemented in the coming weeks:

  • Free Sunday parking in all council car parks from April 1, 2020;
  •  30 minutes free parking in more than 1,000 on-street pay and display bays across the borough from April 1;
  • 20% discount on all parking charges paid by borough residents using the new Havering parking app which is due to launch on May 1;
  • Free parking for specified hours in the car parks on New Windmill Hall, Cottons Park and Lodge Farm Parks from April 1 (all other parks remain free).

The high street’s investment and changes to parking charges will be proposed at the council’s cabinet meeting next week ahead of a full council meeting to agree the borough’s budget for the next financial year.

“Not only are we offering free parking on Sunday and 30 minutes free for on-street parking, we are also offering 20% off parking in car parks for all Havering residents paying by our new app.

“To support this we will make significant investment in our high streets, measured in the millions, as well as attracting government funding.“I know there has been some frustration about our car parking policies, which were implemented a year ago. We have listened and learned to what shoppers and traders have said and we have developed an affordable solution which gives shoppers a good deal and encourages them back to our high streets.

“We now have bigger issues to solve together than parking. Our high streets are changing and we need to make sure they change in a way that’s right for Havering.”Our challenge to everyone is to use them. We will do more to promote our fantastic high street shops and services. By bus, bike, foot or car we’ll show everyone that they’re worth a visit.”It will be up to residents to use them rather than out-of-town or internet shopping.

“The amendment to charges will be implemented if agreed at the council’s cabinet and full council meetings later this month, which will then mean the changes can take place in the next few months.The council will also embark on further engagement with businesses to work together on finding solutions to the change in the high streets.”This will include working with Hornchurch businesses on the possibility of new parking bays to take advantage of 30 minutes free parking.

Special Thanks to Essex Live for their Article- https://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/havering-council-make-u-turn-3815026

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