Ideas to encourage shoppers to return to the town centre via parking ticket refund vouchers are struggling to become a reality.
This evenings Town Centre Forum meeting was given updates from NCP, Eagles Meadow and Wrexham Council run carparks over ideas that could see shoppers given money back to cover or part cover their parking costs.
One idea saw NCP Carparks approached to allow a ‘zero cost’ option, where shoppers would get a £2 voucher off their parking with £1 funded by NCP and £1 via the participating retailer.
The meeting was told forty town centre businesses were canvassed about this idea, with three expressing an interest and only one said they would like to progress it.
NCP have ‘noted the scheme’ , but with the lack of interest are ‘not taking it further’.
Eagles Meadow told the meeting that they had held a tenants meeting for the centre where the idea was proposed. It appears some Eagles Meadow retailers already run a similar scheme however due to poor promotion ‘no one knows about it’.
Vinci, who run the car park at Eagles Meadow, were approached to partake in a voucher style scheme however costs to ‘reprogram parking machines’ are in the region of £7000, and there is uncertainty such costs would be covered by extra business.
Eagles Meadow Manager , and Town Centre Forum Chairman, Kevin Critchley told the meeting that the idea of a voucher scheme has been well received locally; “The local managers on site are all for it, but when it is taken upstream to head offices its taken a lukewarm reception”.
With the idea described as ‘floundering’ at Eagles Meadow it has been circulated to those with more nighttime offerings, and discussions are ongoing.
The parking situation at Eagles Meadow apparently impacts the town centre directly, with one press release (not used by us as we asked for verification of the figures, which was not forthcoming) claimed that 50% of visitors to the centre also visited the town centre.
The debate widened out to the recent parking charge increases in the Council run car parks, with one member of the forum saying he had seen a direct drop off of footfall after the changes.
The Council told the meeting “People do generally drop off at this time of year, and when changes occur there is a drop off as well but people do eventually come back”.
The Council’s Town Centre Manager agreed saying; “There is settling down period with car parking and these changes need a period of time to settle down.
“People will protest and tell people about the changes but they will get over it and come back”.
A query was made about the availability of car park usage to see if the anecdotal drop is born from facts. The meeting was told the data is available, but it was not possible to share it with the meeting.
Wrexham.com has been unable to work out why parking data is sensitive information, whereas if we were reporting say in Nottingham we could reference live parking data public online – for example here via this XML feed.
The Council defended its decision to increase charges, and point out that when the parking order consultation took place there were only five objections and none from town centre businesses.
A small debate about the manner of consultations took place, with the meeting told a notice had been placed in The Leader (that Wrexham.com’ers will have learnt even less people now read) and ‘all legal steps were carried out’.
Mr Critchley said standing in Queens Square with a big sign would have got more than five objections if people were asked ‘in four months time parking costs will go up, what do you think?’.
Councillor Bill Baldwin countered the value of a consultation saying responses would be predictable; “No business would say take away free parking and put up parking prices”.
Councillor Bob Dutton said of the charges; “We compared to close towns and cities to make sure we are well below them.
“It is disappointing that townspeople did not make a formal comment at the time.”
Despite the Council being the target of recent complaints over the cost of parking the meeting was told that 19% of the town car parks are run by them, and Eagles Meadow’s capacity is around 10% of the overall parking.
One interesting note is that Eagles Meadow Manager did say “The Councils parking rates have helped my car park.
“We do a lot of business in the evening, and because of that, we charged in the evening and the council car parks didn’t, but now they do” , implying that people used to park elsewhere however now there are costs to both they are opting for the closer Vinci car park if say they are watching a film.
It currently appears that the voucher scheme is to be debated further, however has not had the uptake that was hoped.
The next Town Centre Forum meeting is at 8.30am on April 1st, with one wag commenting loudly , “Free parking outside the Guildhall will be the April 1st wind up!”
(Picture: The ‘members’ car park by the Guildhall had payment machines out of action today, and later in the afternoon the barrier was up as well, so could be worth a look for some cheeky free parking if they remain broken!)