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Cut-price parking for Canterbury residents would 'boost high street'

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One Kent high street would be given a much-needed boost if residents were offered a 20% discount on parking, say councillors.

Lib Dem Mike Sole has drawn up plans for the cost-saving scheme to be introduced for locals using spaces at any of Canterbury City Council’s ANPR car parks.

Watling Street car park in Canterbury
Watling Street car park in Canterbury

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He thinks the move could convince people to trade shopping at the likes of Westwood Cross for Whitefriars - with any budgetary shortfalls met by pumping up visitor numbers.

“Because the tariffs are high in the city centre, it’s discouraging local people from going in,” Cllr Sole said.

“I think 20% is a reasonable amount. It’s not an enormous discount, but it’s enough to make it worthwhile.

“I don’t think the council needs to lose any money.

“If it meant that they had to add an extra 5p an hour on non-residents’ rates then so be it. The non-resident rate would bear the cost of it.”

Cllr Sole put forward a motion at a full council meeting last week for the scheme to be introduced next April.

The proposed cut-price tariff would give residents a discount for up to four hours in any of the authority’s car parks that have been installed with number plate recognition cameras.

It is being back by fellow Lib Dem Cllr Alex Ricketts.

He previously urged colleagues to launch such a scheme after suggesting the authority should only “screw some money out of the tourists”.

Cllr Sole added: “One great advantage about Canterbury is the ANPR system - it would be very easy for residents to register a car and then automatically get a discounted parking rate.

The hourly price in Queningate car park will be £3.50 come 2023
The hourly price in Queningate car park will be £3.50 come 2023

“Residents would really appreciate that, and it may even encourage them to stay in the city centre longer.”

Canterbury market stallholder Jeb Hughes claims he has lost numerous customers in recent months, as they have opted to shop at places like Ashford's Designer Outlet, where parking is £1 for four hours.

The trader thinks resident discounts would help to stem the tide.

He said: "One customer told me she was no longer going to come into the city because Ashford is cheaper.

"This is what I'm finding's happening quite a lot with my customers."

Canterbury market stallholder Jeb Hughes
Canterbury market stallholder Jeb Hughes

Mark Pegg, head of business at The Brogue Trader in Burgate, also believes the proposals would help trade.

He says the cut-price rates would increase the number of shoppers travelling into the area from Whitstable, Herne Bay and the surrounding villages.

"It definitely would have a positive impact as some of our regular trade comes from the more affluent coastal areas," Mr Pegg explained.

"Over the last few weeks we've had a return of tourist trade, but we're not seeing as much of the local customer.

"I think the prices are putting more people in the surrounding area off."

Mark Pegg, head of business at The Brogue Trader which works in partnership with Loake shoemakers
Mark Pegg, head of business at The Brogue Trader which works in partnership with Loake shoemakers

It comes after rates were hiked to £3.20 at the city’s most popular car parks, Watling Street and Queningate, in April. They are set to rise by a further 30p in 12 months’ time.

Prices at other Canterbury sites - like Pound Lane, St Radigunds and Riverside - were bumped up to £2.50, while charges at the Station Road West and Castle Street multi-storeys were frozen.

Authority bosses stress the additional revenue from parking - which makes up more than 25% of its income - will help plug its £5 million deficit.

And council leader Ben Fitter-Harding (Con) says changes like those put forward by Cllr Sole would land residents with a larger tax bill.

“Council tax only just about covers the cost of bin collections, so Cllr Sole will need to consider if he will ask residents to pay more council tax in exchange for cheaper parking,” the Tory boss added.

“A lower parking rate for residents is a long-held ambition of the Conservatives on the city council.

“But we’ve actually already done it.

“Those parking in Canterbury can get a massive 36% discount by going to the likes of Station Road West and Castle Street multi-storeys.

“Visitors from outside the district tend to head straight to expensive car parks like Watling Street and Queningate - but savvy locals know that for a few minutes’ walk they can get really great pricing.”

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