Campaign launched for free Stevenage town centre parking
- Credit: Archant
A campaign has been launched for free parking in a town centre after claims “rip off” charges are preventing major redevelopment of the area.
Two weeks ago the Comet exclusively revealed how Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has asked the Government to establish a new Stevenage Development Corporation to regenerate the town centre.
Mr McPartland blames Stevenage Borough Council’s (SBC) car parking charges - which he says are driving people to shop elsewhere - for failed regeneration attempts in the past.
He has launched a petition for three hours free town centre parking, which he says was signed by hundreds at the weekend.
“The support is amazing,” he said.
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“Stevenage Borough Council is taking more than £3 million a year in parking charges, which is actively preventing the regeneration of Stevenage town centre.
“The Portas Review [an independent review into the future of our high streets] clearly showed parking charges were the biggest barrier to regeneration.
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“The council has talked about regenerating our town centre for decades, but cannot give up its addiction to the £3 million in parking charges.
“What is shocking is at least a million pounds is pure profit, as the council claims it costs almost £2 million to maintain the car parks, which no one believes.”
He is calling on the council to apologise and introduce free parking so more people can afford to shop locally.
“We can get a refurbished town centre if Stevenage Borough Council stops ripping off people,” he said.
SBC says it has its own redevelopment plans, which will be published in the next few weeks.
A council spokesman said: “Our previous large-scale regeneration plans fell victim to the economic downturn – not to our car parking charges – and we are now actively working to deliver alternative town centre plans.
“We have not been presented with any evidence to suggest free parking would lead to regeneration of the town centre, and it is regrettable our MP is misleading residents by suggesting it would.
“Shoppers in any town centre have to pay for parking, and car parking charges was just one of a number of issues identified by the Portas Review.
“Stevenage Borough Council has offered free parking in its town centre car parks on a trial basis but saw no resultant increase in the number of visitors.
“We would welcome support from the Government and our MP for our town centre regeneration but it has not yet been forthcoming.”
To sign the petition, visit www.stephen-mcpartland.com/parkingcampaign