A furious war of words has broken out over the cost of parking in Wrexham Town Centre, with concerns from a group of local traders that not enough is being done to help businesses and shoppers.
The exchange took place between Council Leader Mark Pritchard and town centre traders at a meeting earlier this week.
The price of car parking in Wrexham Town Centre has been a hot topic of debate since the parking fees were raised last year. In previous Town Centre Forum meetings the car parking topic has dominated meetings with some members requesting that Wrexham Council make changes to the current provision.
Earlier this week questions were raised over the occupancy levels at Council run car parks in the town centre, with Town Centre Forum Chairman, Nigel Lewis commenting on the number of cars he has observed parked in the Waterworld car park on Saturday’s.
Previously members had been told by Councillor David Bithell that car parks in the town centre were working at an 85% occupancy rate, however these figures were rejected by Mr Lewis who claimed the Waterworld car park is operating ‘no where near that’.
Mr Lewis said: “If people can park for free and you put an event on, they will come. If you provide something and you make it accessible – the free parking days demonstrate that.
“I would like to know how many £4 parking tickets are sold on a Saturday in that car park. Crown buildings car park has nearly 100 spaces and it is nearly empty. I’d be amazed if you are taking £10 in parking fees in that car park.”
However Cllr Pritchard noted that members regularly meet and accused members of ‘kicking’ the Council.
Cllr Pritchard added: “We feel the Council are being turned on and we are disappointed. We work tirelessly hard with you on parking and have made reductions. We have given free car parking and some free days up to Christmas and we are still being criticised.
“If this is meant to be joint working, I can’t see a lot of it in reference to parking. I hope the same effort is made by the private sector, if all going to work together we need to. I have emails from people who have had good days on the free parking, about time we all work together.
“At the end of the day we don’t run all the car parking in Wrexham. There are others that I could mention, but I won’t – but they are empty.”
Cllr Pritchard added: “It’s not very good when Wrexham Council is criticised at every twist and turn about parking. Other authorities around us are increasing the car parking this year.”
However Cllr Pritchard’s comments were not accepted by some Forum members, with Matt McHale of La Baguette stating: “To say we are kicking you is wrong. We are volunteers here, we are not employed to do it and we’re not paid to do it. Can you consider a few more free days for events that are coming up.”
Ruth Rees from Martin Rees Jewellers added: “We were so upset about free car parking because we’d been talking to the Council about changes to parking and they went off and did something different. Even when we asked for the days to be delayed so we could have that discussion about what would help us it was ignored. It was upsetting and made many of us deeply angry.”
However Cllr Pritchard noted the Council talk with all organisations across the authority and that he ‘hopes you put as much effort into the private sector as with us’.
Speaking to Wrexham.com after the somewhat lively meeting, Forum Member Andrew Atkinson said: “I’ve surveyed town centre traders and spoken to countless shoppers and parking is the number one issue that comes up.
“The big jump in price from 2 hours to 4 hours is prohibitive and discourages people from staying longer in the town.
“My personal view is that the Council have a tough job to do along with budgetary pressures and they can’t lose any of the income, so I want to see a proper piece of work done that shows that if they charged less the car parks could be more full and that there may be no loss to the Council but a huge gain for the town.
“Without this piece of work it’s all hypothetical. There is no time to lose on this, we owe it to our traders.”
No changes to car parking in Wrexham are expected to be made for a while, however in the meantime it’s worth taking advantage of and pointing out that you can park all day for £2 in the People’s Market or you can park free after 3pm in both the Peoples Market and Crescent Rod car park.
Free car parking will also be provided for the upcoming Play Day event which will take place on Queens Square next month (in Council owned car parks only – so don’t try it at Eagles Meadow or Island Green etc etc!)