Parking costs are killing town centre
May 25, 2006
I have lived in the Ash Vale area for the last ten years. In that short time I have witnessed the gradual decline in the services and amenities of my nearest town, Aldershot.
It’s a very sad state of affairs when the local council says, in one breath, we need to support our local shops more by using them, and then in another increases the parking charges and introduces metered areas that were not long ago free for one hour.
This insidious spread of chargeable parking slots, and the inflation-busting increases made, has happened by stealth over the short time that I have lived in the area. I am sure that like myself a good number of people shop in Aldershot because of the range of independent traders, value and scope that it had been able to offer. Now it’s getting worse very quickly — just look at the number of retail outlet spaces empty — one by one they have closed or are closing. The sad part is that while Aldershot has managed to hang on to a unique identity up until recently, it is systematically being allowed to go the way of the others as a result of poor local planning controls, daft regeneration schemes and a greedy and short-sighted borough council charging too much rent for today’s price-depressed marketplace.
It is true that we have an overvalued property market thanks to a free and easy credit regime along with a relatively low bank base rate.
All of this and no doubt other factors have contributed to the effect we see now but the council doesn’t seem to have taken all this into account.
The biggest and most wanton damage the town has had to endure is the development of Tesco to the south. When will the people who control these planning matters stop and realise that there is only so much money in the system, people have a lot less disposable income now thanks to government stealth taxes and exorbitant mortgage/rent charges to fund. Any silly council schemes that attack the motorist only serve to score an own goal as far as getting people into town.
The town needs and deserves to be given a fair chance, not this. Don’t be tempted to think, oh well, it’s only 50p for an hour, it’s £1 for 61 minutes’ worth of shopping on a weekday or Saturday, that’s £1 for enough petrol to drive eight or ten miles for a lot of car owners. Apart from that it’s the inconvenience of finding a space, finding the change, remembering what time you have to be back and dreading being caught by a big penalty charge because you are over time. All this evaporates when you shop in an out-of-town supermarket — in-house chemist, dry cleaners, shoe repairs, photo shop, it goes on and on. All with no charge for parking. Most have a petrol station nearby, also at lower than traditional garage prices. Most people can go to one place and buy all they need bar a few odds and ends which they might pop into town for, and therein lies the problem.
Come on Rushmoor planners, please can you not see that what you are doing is only making things worse for the town, not better?