Limited free parking trial is a ‘small crumb of comfort’

Leighton Buzzard car park fees
Leighton Buzzard car park fees

A two-hour free parking trial has been described as “a very small crumb of comfort” by the chairman of Leighton Buzzard traders group, LB First.

Gennaro Borrelli, who owns A Touch of Class hair salon in Bridge Street, is dismayed that Central Beds Council has decided to push ahead and hike parking fees in the town.

Traders had been asking for a Free From Three scheme, which would have seen free parking introduced daily after 3pm – a time when trade tends to peter out.

But instead Central Beds has decided to introduce two hours of free parking once a week in just the Duncombe Drive car park at a time to be decided locally shortly.

Mr Borrelli said of the trial which will run until August: “It’ll no doubt have to be a quiet day of the week to see if they can drive the numbers up. It definitely won’t be a market day, probably a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday.”

He accused Central Beds Council of a “adhoc and patchwork” approach to the town.

He said: “The biggest issue is there hasn’t been joined-up thinking. On one hand CBC has the market town regeneration programme and all town across Central Beds are being asked to bid for a sum of money to boost footfall in the town centre, but on the other hand they are have introduced a policy of raising parking charges, which is completely contrary to what they are trying to do.

“Parking charges are the quickest way to drive footfall out of the town centre.”

He cited Bedford as an example where it had allowed the first two hours of parking free at all its car parks to try to bring people back into town.

But Mr Borrelli said he was delighted the council had decided to introduce Pay On Exit machines from next August. He said: “This is a good thing. Studies show people spend more time in a town centre where there is Pay On Exit.”

> From January the cost of parking for 30 minutes will rise to 50p (previously 20p), with up to one hour £1 (previously 50p), two hours £1 (£1 or 50p), three hours £2 (£1.50), 10 hours £6.50 (£6), one week £15 (£12.80) and a lost token £8 (£5.50).