COLUMN: There is huge support for free parking campaign

This week you may have seen that I’ve launched my campaign for free parking in Mansfield town centre.

I’ve spent months talking to local businesses and shoppers, holding drop-ins and handing out surveys, to try and get a feel for what people think about our town centre.

The biggest issue raised was that car parks were both hard to find and expensive. It may seem small, but actually the potential for pulling in to the car park and finding you have no change to buy a ticket genuinely puts off a lot of people. Meanwhile if you’re not a regular to Mansfield, you’ll struggle to find the car parks that are all hidden without adequate signage.

There are a number of issues, and free parking won’t be an instant solution, but changes to our parking do need to be a part of it. More and more Mansfield town centre is competing with out of town shops. People shop in those places because they have a good variety of attractions all in one place, and it’s free and simple to park.

Clearly the free parking campaign only deals with part of that equation, it won’t instantly mean there is more to offer in the town centre. The council need to ensure that they are doing everything they can to offer incentives for empty shops to be taken up by new businesses, and they’ll have more control over this from next year when they gain more control over the business rates. The big challenge is with rental costs as most properties are owned by private landlords, so that’s often out of the council’s control. More shops in town is hugely important, and will be boosted by the hotel proposals that are in the pipeline too.

That said the parking situation can definitely help. It’s broadly supported by an overwhelming majority of both shoppers and businesses, and if it can help more people to visit the town then that boost in footfall will lead to more businesses moving in too.

This campaign is important in bringing the issue of town centre parking firmly on to the council’s agenda. There will be a balance that is both affordable and beneficial for the town, and that’s what we need to strike.

To support my campaign visit benbradleymp.com/free-parking