Friday, November 6, 2015

News: Parking initiatives in Rotherham town centre

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Businesses in Rotherham town centre are hoping to benefit as the Council again offers free parking on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas.

Car parking will be free in all Council-run off-street car parks and on-street parking bays each Saturday from November 14, up to and including December 26. With parking historically free on Sundays too, a number of stores 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.

Following the busy festive period the popular free parking initiative on Forge Island is set to be continued, with a few refinements.

Pay and display parking on the site began in November 2014 following the closure of the Tesco store. Operated by the Council, the car park, which has 309 parking bays, also includes free, limited stay parking in the 70 parking bays which form the "Red Zone."

Now the trial free parking offer is set made permanent after representatives of businesses based in the town centre suggested that several parking initiatives should be introduced at a recent meeting with Commissioner Kenny, who has been given the lead on growing the local economy, ensuring the Council is working with others to improve jobs and housing opportunities.

The free parking is set to be reduced from three hours to two hours in a bid to reduce the opportunities for employees and visitors to the Council offices to use the Red Zone free bays to the detriment of availability to shoppers.

A Council report said: "The free parking was offered on a trial basis but usage data indicates that it has been a success and to make the offer permanent would be a popular decision with businesses and their customers.

"The Red Zone free parking bays have certainly been well used; there have been many occasions when they have been reported to be full. This situation must have increased foot fall in the Corporation Street vicinity of the town centre and businesses have reported the positive effect of the scheme."

Rotherham Council, which has been in discussions to acquire the site, had earmarked Forge Island as the preferred site for a town centre cinema and theatre development but has been in discussions with developer, Evans regarding a potential office campus that would bring 2,000 new jobs to the important site.

Further parking initiatives are being costed by the Council, these include increasing mid-week parking tariffs to offset the cost of a free Saturday parking offer.

In a recent update on the Council's budget, Sir Derek Myers, lead commissioner at Rotherham Council, said: "We cannot set our own council tax above a Government prescribed limit which is normally around the rate of inflation. We can use reserves to a limited extent, but obviously reserves get used up and this is not a recipe for a successful future. We can increase charges but there are not many charges where this is relevant in Rotherham. Other areas of the country might have more buoyant street car parking or off road car parking systems where a modest increase in charges might yield considerable income, but in Rotherham we have the reverse.

"Overoptimistic assumptions about car parking income now mean that we actually have a deficit against some income projections in the Council."

Commissioner Julie Kenny has made the "minded to" decision to make the Forge Island initiative permanent. Other options that involve financial implications will be presented in separate report to in December.

Rotherham town centre website

Images: RMBC

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