Thursday, October 16, 2014

News: Free parking comes early for Rotherham Christmas shoppers

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Businesses in Rotherham town centre are hoping to benefit as the Council begins offering free parking on Saturdays a month earlier than in previous years.

Car parking will be free in all Council-run off-street car parks and on-street parking bays each Saturday from October 18, up to and including December 27. With parking historically free on Sundays too, a number of stores, including Primark, are opening up for the whole weekend.

Rotherham is a Portas Pilot town and one of the key recommendations in the Mary Portas High Street Review was that high streets and town centres should have the flexibility to introduce local parking initiatives to boost trade. This is particularly pertinent to Rotherham, given the proximity to Parkgate and Meadowhall, both of which have a free parking offer.

The move, which in previous years began around the time of the Christmas lights switch-on event in November, previously used £24,000 from council revenue budgets to cover costs.

Traders in the town have been adversely affected by a number of protests and marches that have taken place through key shopping streets on Saturdays, meant to be the busiest shopping day of the week, with many shops forced to close for the day and others reporting trade reduced by as much as 90%.

Andrew Birks from Andrew's Butchers, currently based in the Riverside Precinct, said: "Rotherham is a lovely little market town, with a lot of great people. It's great news that free parking is back, the town really needs some positive news right now and if this makes it a little easier for our customers to come down and use the great independent businesses in their town then it couldn't come too soon.

"I think we're turning the corner in terms of the array of small independent retailers that are springing up. These are tough little businesses and are going strong in what have been very challenging times, simply because they're good at what they do!

"Many Rotherham residents are becoming increasing aware of the fact that they can get better service, better quality, better choice and a better smile in the shops of town centres, as opposed to the soulless supermarkets and shopping malls, but parking has been a problem, not any more!

"What we need now is for locals to get behind their town centre, use the free parking, use these great businesses and see it for themselves and now is a great time to visit Rotherham."

Karl Battersby, strategic director of Environment and Development Services at Rotherham Council, added: "Rotherham Town Centre has shop after fantastic shop, all offering a real alternative retail experience.

"From one end of the town centre to the other, we have a wealth of unique retailers right here on your doorstep offering a bespoke shopping experience.

"Our local independent shops have a reputation for providing quality products and first-class customer service and your support can really make a difference to your town and Rotherham's local economy.

"We're hoping that the success story that is Rotherham Town Centre will gain even more support with the free Saturday parking and even more people will discover just why Mary Portas said our shops were "better than some in the heart of London"."

Motorists are reminded that although parking is free on Saturdays, maximum stay restrictions will remain in force to help ensure parking is available to those shopping in the town.

The disabled bays will also remain strictly for the use of blue badge holders only. Free parking does not apply to private car parks.

Rotherham Council recently put forward plans to operate Forge Island, the site of the current Tesco store in the town centre, as an off street car park with free short stay parking spaces for shoppers. The new £40m Tesco Extra has been given an opening date of November 13.

Rotherham town centre website

Images: RMBC

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