After the council's recent decision to increase on-street car parking charges and extend the hours when these would apply - from 8am-8pm, seven days a week - we fished around for reaction from businesses directly affected by changes.
"The proposals are terrible and stupid and will keep away trade. The parking situation is already bad enough."
At the same time as Manchester was proposing the extensions, Leeds was reducing the regulation of city centre on-street parking (click here). Also, the justification for these changes is not the recent government cuts imposed on local authorities but the need to ease traffic flows and increase the circulation of people through the city.
The reactions we found were strong and impassioned.
By the way, our picture shows empty bays on Booth Street and Tib Lane close to the main retail area at 12.20 on Saturday. The picture punctures the notion that the city centre is so filled with on-street parkers that they need further regulation.
"The High Street is in trouble nationally and they these sorts of measures are exactly the type of short-sighted thinking driving people to the Trafford Centre. If the council can’t see this, they’re fucking stupid. They’ll help drive businesses across Town into bankruptcy and then there’ll be less rates coming in. So what will they do – raise the parking fees. And so it goes on. The early week, early evening economy is important for many operators in the city. This hits the pre-theatre trade directly, and is targeted to do so. If it were just about government cuts then you may have a tiny degree of sympathy but still feel this was attacking the wrong target, but to say it’s to ease traffic flows is just bollocks."
Tim Bacon, Living Ventures
“We are aware of the forthcoming changes to parking charges in the city centre, and will be watching to see what – if any – effect it has on our patrons. A large number of our theatregoers use public transport or park in the nearby NCP car parks that we have a discounted parking deal with. However we know that some do take advantage of the free on-street parking and these changes will likely to be a disappointment to them. Anything that could have implications on the numbers of people coming into the city is a concern and one that we will be monitoring closely once the changes come into effect.” Spokesperson for the Palace Theatre and Opera House
"People coming into town, especially on a Sunday, like the convenience of on-street parking. We're not sure if it will affect us yet...time will tell. A lot of our customers like parking on the street outside the restaurant, especially after 6pm. It doesn't matter that there's a multi-story nearby, and that's the same for a lot of restaurants. Points made about handing over adventage to the Trafford Centre are probably right. In the past year, the city centre has grown and brought more people in. I think the
parking charges might hand advantage back to the Trafford Centre." Marcelo Di Stefano of San Carlo and Cicchetti
“The proposals are terrible and stupid and will keep away trade. The parking situation is already bad enough, people have to arrive early on a Sunday to get a space. People will go elsewhere and the restaurants and other businesses are being squeezed like lemon.” Ettore Cicchetti of Piccolino
“Proposals are shocking and particularly bad in current economic climate. At the moment parking is free after 6pm and therefore encourages new custom and people who may not usually come into the city. Free parking on Sundays currently creates a buzzing hive of activity up here but changes will threaten the thriving Sunday trade that has been built up. It’s a red carpet for places like the Trafford Centre. And what about Chinatown on Sunday? This is the day when families normally come to visit; that will be jeopardised. As for the argument that the charges will help clear congestion, are they joking. There is no problem with this especially on Sunday.” Nicky Rybka-Goldsmith, Thomas Restaurant and The Bay Horse
“Depressed as ever by the retrograde proposals. They are sad and depressing and not surprising. By adding Sunday charges the council will jeopardise one of the best days of the week - the freedom to park is one of the main reasons people come into town on a Sunday. Manchester is very car unfriendly. If this were about the council’s cuts and real people’s jobs were being protected by this, fair enough. But to make traffic flows better.....I can’t see any way in which it isn’t negative for businesses. We have a Sam’s in Leeds and people can easily park outside it and not get a fine for returning one minute late. In parking, Leeds is clearly a much more progressive place. Roger Ward, Sam’s Chop House
Stephen Miles, of the Radisson Edwardian hotel, didn't think the changes would have any affect on his business. Meanwhile seven businesses who didn't want to be named including shops and galleries all thought they were, to quote one of them, "Bad for the city." A main theatre that also didn't want to be quoted said, "it was making a bad situation worse."
There is still time for a reversal of these changes and for the city council to see sense. Confidential thinks it would be the noble thing to do - especially if as stated the changes have nothing to do with cuts but all to do with traffic flows.
Politicians must make difficult decisions from time to time. And you have to respect them when they have the guts to take an action they know will be unpopular.
But here a massive majority of people who actually employ people, pay rents and rates in the city centre, are against the car parking changes. These aren't stupid people blindly hating all car parking fees, none of them would ask for free car parking every hour of every day, but they know the footfall in the businesses, they know what affects custom.
To Confidential and to everybody we meet (more or less), squeezing the success of an unsteady city centre seems perverse - especially on grounds of better traffic movement.
The council's report reads: 'The reason for making the proposed changes is to reduce city centre congestion making it easier for shoppers and visitors to find a short-stay, onstreet parking place close to their destination. Generation of revenue is not the reason for introducing the price rise.'
Nobody sees the need to make it 'easier' in this way for shoppers and other visitors to visit Manchester. There's being brave and unpopular - and thwen there's being at bit daft.
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