Business development · 8 January 2016

Vast majority of UK shoppers would choose local shops – but only with free town centre parking

cost of parking

Some 87 per cent of people would visit smaller local retailers if paying for parking were not an issue, according to new research by car leasing company Flexed.co.uk – but only a fifth would pay to park on their local high street if an out-of-town supermarket let them do so for free.

The study also revealed that small independent shops see revenues up by one-third when there are no costs associated with local parking.

“Government limits on how much local authorities can increase council tax charges mean that alternative revenue streams are vital for many councils,” said Flexed.co.uk co-founder Mark Hall.

He added: “Car parking is one of the most obvious ways of raising cash but it’s vital that a balance is struck between maintaining services and helping local businesses to survive.”

An additional survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in 2013 found that almost half of small business owners think that the cost of parking has a negative impact on their business – and some 42 per cent believe it should be reduced.

FSB regional chairman Ken Wigfield said: “We understand that councils across the UK are struggling to make ends meet, but we urge them to look at the bigger picture, especially around the knock-on effects of excessive business closures in our town centres.”

Councils in England and Wales were predicted to collect £687m in parking revenues over the course of 2015.

Local authorities across the country relaxed restrictions in order to support small local retailers on Small Business Saturday in December 2015 ­– but high streets minister Marcus Jones told The Telegraph in July that the government would be putting in place permanent measures to prevent town centre parking bays being used as “cash cows”.

“It is really important that local areas have the opportunity to consider any impacts on their high streets and town centres. Ultimately, we’re monitoring this very closely because we do take it very seriously,” he said.

“Councils should be focusing their efforts on supporting our town centres and motorists, not by raising money through over-zealous parking enforcement,” he added.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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