The Forum of Private Business is leading a call to scrap car parking charges in town centres, with the aim of boosting custom to small businesses.
The Forum believes that free parking in out-of-town shopping centres is drawing visitors away from town centres across the country and contributing to economic troubles for small businesses.
Around 15,000 town centre shops shut permanently between 2000 and 2009, with an additional 10,000 closing in 2010 and 2011 – a sharp rise in just two years. 2013 is expected to be another tough year for British businesses as economic uncertainty continues.
The Forum’s head of policy, Alex Jackman, said “It doesn’t look like trading conditions are going to get much better for retailers next year: weak growth, rising business costs, reduced returns for investors and consumer spending that is now the same as 2002 levels. And the internet is only going to get stronger.”
Mr Jackman believes free parking could be the answer to the High Street’s problems. He says: “Look at it like the average consumer probably does: do I go to the out-of-town shopping centre where car parking is free? Or my local town centre where I’ll have to pay around £3 or £4 for privilege of parking for just a few hours…? Remove the parking charge though and it might go something like this: do I go to the out-of-town shopping centre? Or my local town centre, with loads more shops, more choice, and better value? It’s a no brainer.”