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£1 an hour: Cambridge car park charges to be slashed to lure shoppers

Car park charges are being slashed by the city council to encourage shoppers back into Cambridge.

The plan is to introduce a three-month parking deal from Saturday (August 1) in which drivers will pay just £1 an hour to leave their vehicles in council car parks.

Cllr Lewis Herbert on East Road in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Lewis Herbert on East Road in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Councillors say this acknowledges the fact that many people are still avoiding public transport in the wake of the coronavirus and, with the need for social distancing, may prefer to use a car.

Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said: “We are making a three-month cut to parking charges because we want to support city centre businesses recover and protect the jobs of all their workers.

“They are facing a really difficult situation in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, as they try to attract more people, including local residents travelling by bus, cycle or on foot.

“As businesses reopen we want to see the single £1 an hour parking tariff encourage more people to treat themselves to a fun and safe visit to the city centre, to return to our wonderful range of shops and independents, have a gander around our lovely city, and stay long enough to also enjoy the city’s stunning range of cafes, bars and restaurants.

“It is great to see numbers visiting the city centre rising as more businesses open up, but we want to do our bit to help speed things along.

“City centre food and beverage businesses are working so hard to welcome back their customers, assisted by the Mondays to Wednesdays national Eat Out to Help Out scheme about to begin in August, which means now is a great time to cut our parking charges and support our city centre.”

The council’s car parks include those at the Grand Arcade and The Grafton shopping centres, along with the multi-storeys in Park Street and Queen Anne Terrace, along with surface car parks at Adam and Eve Street, Castle Hill, Gwydir Street, Lammas Land and Riverside.

The council confirmed that from Saturday:

1. There will be a single tariff of £1 per hour Monday to Sunday 24/7 at all council-owned multi-storey and surface car parks for up to three months until the end of October. This will be reviewed on a monthly basis to check whether its core objective of attracting more customers into central Cambridge is being achieved;

2. The public sector key worker permit for free parking introduced in June will be extended to the end of October, when it will be reviewed;

3. The city centre worker permit which was introduced in June will be discontinued as £1 an hour offers a better parking deal for employees too;

4. Parking fees in council-owned surface car parks will be enforced again from the end of August and the £1 an hour tariff applied there too.

Tim Bick. Picture: Phli Mynott. (9008554)
Tim Bick. Picture: Phli Mynott. (9008554)

However, Cllr Tim Bick, Lib Dem group leader on the council, said: “This policy has really been rail-roaded through as if no other views on the matter could possibly exist. Well they do - and there are some very legitimate concerns about it which should be considered and not simply ignored.

“We know businesses are keen to boost footfall in the city centre and we share everyone’s concerns about their recovery. But we aren’t convinced that knocking down the price of car parking really addresses the issue. It seems more likely that people have not been going to the city centre because they are trying to avoid unnecessary trips and they are unenthusiastic about queueing and wearing face masks to get into shops. The price of parking hasn’t got much to do with that.

“The good news is that people are already now returning to the centre in bigger numbers each week. Participating in a downward bidding war over car park pricing may not add much to this because it doesn’t address the real issue of confidence.

“On the negative side, cutting car park pricing throws out of the window broader transport policy through which we are trying to discourage people from bringing their cars into the city centre in order to reduce congestion and pollution and fight climate change. Transport in the city accounts for 20 per cent of carbon emissions and we have declared a climate emergency to address this as a priority. Encouraging different habits now could have a long-term knock-on well beyond the pandemic.

“To help businesses, we would rather see a campaign to demonstrate the positive social distancing precautions the bus and train service operators have put in place and to introduce more cyclists to the whereabouts of safe routes and secure parking.

“We also disagree with the council’s double standard in relation to allowing some people completely free city centre car parking. Whatever the general price of car parking, if free parking is to be given to people whose place of work is in the city centre, it shouldn't be allocated based on whether they work for the public sector or not. If it is necessary at all, the hundreds of low paid shop workers in the private sector have at least as good a claim to such a privilege: and they shouldn’t be treated less generously.”

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