Free short-term parking plea for Leighton Buzzard town centre is rejected
Councillor says initiative could have attracted customers back from retail park
A call for an hour's free parking or no charge for half an hour in Leighton Buzzard town centre was rejected at a Central Bedfordshire Council meeting yesterday (Thursday).
A written question was submitted to CBC asking for the potential financial benefits of relaxing the cost of short-term parking in the town to be analysed.
Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey asked for the issue to be examined "in light of support for high streets from both national government and CBC executive members, and of the council's sustainability strategy".
She wants officers to explore "the finances of half an hour or an hour of free parking for Leighton Buzzard town centre to see if it would be cost neutral".
Councillor Harvey said: "Higher costs for longer stay, such as those who work in the town, could help support the shift to sustainable transport and reduce carbon emissions.
"The free half hour or hour could attract those who would otherwise drive further to avoid parking charges at out of town retail parks in Grovebury Road or in Bletchley, bringing in more income."
In her written question to CBC, she added: "As the multi-storey car park is less than a fifth full, while the car park for Waitrose and for the out of town retail park are very busy, there's a possibility of pent up-demand.
"With the planned events programme and the number of cafes in the town centre, the offer of a free half hour or hour could attract new customers to the CBC car parks.
"These visitors will then stay longer than the free slot and bring in income for CBC.
"As regard regeneration, the free parking enables many people who are short of time to pop into town on their way to another activity.
"Their retail spend is important for the economic viability of the independent high street shops."
Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno replied: "Many factors impact on regeneration and sustainability.
"The provision of free parking shouldn't be the starting point for looking at how best CBC supports those agendas, not only in Leighton Buzzard but across Central Bedfordshire.
"The council has been offering free parking one afternoon a week for some time in the town.
"To support local businesses across much of the area we've been offering free parking on Saturdays in two of our car parks. That's still in place.
"The request would require a considerable amount of work across a number of service areas to establish the potential links between parking and sustainability and regeneration.
"A range of factors will influence both of these and there are no immediate plans to initiate work of this nature., so I can't support your request at present.
"The shortfall of cars in a location doesn't mean there's a lack of people," added councillor Dalgarno, who's the executive member for community services.
"Leighton Buzzard has a very diverse group of shops and local businesses, which is what's needed to ensure the future viability of our town centres.
"On the offer of a half hour, if you have a robust high street with various shops you want people to use them.
"You don't want people to go in and buy one item. You want them to shop in and support all the premises."
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