Free car parking will not solve the city’s problems, says council

Parking mad: Dropping charges is not the answer to the problems retailers face, according to Coun Matthew Morley.
Parking mad: Dropping charges is not the answer to the problems retailers face, according to Coun Matthew Morley.

Free car parking will not solve problems faced by town and city centres in the Wakefield district, the council’s transport spokesman has said.

Councillor Matthew Morley said that scrapping parking charges might not increase footfall in retail areas because spaces would be used by employees who leave their car all day.

His comments came during a lively debate about the issue at a full council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, at which Conservative member Gill Cruise called for charges to be scrapped during the Rhubarb Festival later this month.

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Coun Morley said he would consider the idea, but did not believe it was a long-term solution.

He said: “You do end up in a situation where the people you want to attract – visitors and customers – aren’t able to use the free parking spaces because the people who work in the town and city centres are using them.

“They end up being forced into the private car parking spaces which are not free.

“I’m always happy to look at providing free parking for certain events where we can, but it’s not the answer to everybody’s problems.”

Coun Cruise said that free parking during the Rhubarb Festival, which runs from February 22 to February 24, would help draw people into Wakefield and build on its recent success.

But in response, Coun Morley said: “It’s one of the busiest events we have in the city centre. It’s got people.

“If we have free parking at events we have to think about what it’s going to do to the city centre that day – chaos and all the rest of it.

“I’m happy to look at it, but I think anything we do would have to be done in partnership with private providers.

“What attracts people into city centres is niche shops that you can’t find anything else. That’s what we need to be encouraging.”

There is a supply of free parking in Horbury, but one of the town’s Conservative councillors, Margaret Holwell, said that the issue was a “difficult question”.