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Cambridge BID and FSB urge businesses to oppose increase in city parking rates

Cambridge BID and the Federation of Small Businesses have urged businesses to oppose the city council’s proposals to increase parking rates, warning that the changes will hit the night-time economy and affect workers.

Cambridge BID CEO Ian Sandison. Picture: Richard Marsham
Cambridge BID CEO Ian Sandison. Picture: Richard Marsham

The organisations hope enough people will respond before the consultation on the council’s plans closes on Friday (December 21) to prompt a rethink.

The council is proposing to push back the time that cheaper evening parking rates begin to 7pm from April 2019. They used to begin at 5pm until last April, when the start time was switched to 6pm.

There would also be changes on Saturdays and Sundays, when the council plans to increase parking charges by 50p per hour of stay for those arriving during the peak hours of 11am-1pm.

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District (BID), which works with 1,200 city businesses, said: “Cambridge BID’s vision has always been to create a welcoming, world-class destination for all who visit, live and work in Cambridge – but these parking proposals are not aligned to this focus.

“If the proposals go ahead, cheaper evening parking rates will no longer kick in until 7pm. This would be the second time in a year that the city council has pushed back the start of the lower parking tariff – to the detriment of both the night-time economy and the pre-theatre ‘drinks and dinner’ trade.

“In addition, many retailers that trade late rely on shift staff to cover these times, as do bars and restaurants.

“However, there is no late-night public transport to the villages, where many of these lower-paid workers live, so they are forced to use their cars to travel to and from work and so will be forced to pay these higher parking charges.

“This, in turn, is likely to make the hiring of such workers more difficult as unemployment in the region is low, and it would make sense for them to look for work in locations that are easier and more affordable to reach.

“Additionally, the last buses on most Park & Ride routes leave the city around 8.30pm on weekdays and Saturdays, and 6.30pm on Sundays. People living outside the city, who want to enjoy a night in the centre, have no option but to drive all the way in due to there being no late-night bus provision back to the Park & Ride sites.

“Despite these proposed increases in parking tariffs, the city council has made no plans to offer any additional bus provision as a viable alternative.”

The city council has vowed to reduce air pollution and fight congestion, urging drivers to switch to greener modes of transport such as Park & Ride buses.

But Alan Todd, area leader for the FSB in greater Cambridge, warned the changes came at a time when high street shops are under great pressure.

“The proposed additional peak-hour tariff at the weekend will certainly affect small businesses in the city centre as this is a key shopping time.

“The delay with the evening reduction in parking charges from 6pm to 7pm will also be detrimental, as this is a key arrival time in the city for the night time economy and pre-theatre trade.

“Cambridge’s parking is already too expensive for the casual shopper to undertake a quick last minute buy, it would be unfortunate if this was extended into further categories of visitor to the detriment of the small businesses in the city.

“We would hate to see those independent businesses that make Cambridge such a unique and special place driven out of business through the added problem of a reduced customer base.

“Recently, we launched our High Streets Campaign in which we outline the burden of the outdated and unfair business rates system, the dwindling bank branch and ATM networks and the lack of adequate parking facilities.

“Parking remains a big issue for city centres. High parking charges, aggressive enforcement and a lack of available spaces in many areas have discouraged shoppers from visiting,favouring out-of-town retail parks with free parking.

“This is a difficulty time for independent businesses and we oppose any measures that would discourage visitors from the city centre.

“This would work detrimentally to the interests of small businesses and to the sustainability of the centre of Cambridge as a premiere visitor destination. We would encourage small business owners who feel they would be affected by the proposed changes to let Cambridge City Council know.”

Visit cambridge.gov.uk/consultations or email carparkconsultations@cambridge.gov.uk to comment.

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