Protect Traders by Keeping Parking Free

Column in the Barry & District News by Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP:

In recent weeks, I’ve been speaking to many concerned local traders about the prospect of parking charges being introduced across the Vale. As many will remember, I have long campaigned against car parking charges in the belief that it will be damaging to the local economy and will do little to attract people to our area.

The Council cabinet state that they are consulting on an independent report that recommended charging.  The responses to the consultation will be key to their decision and they have said that they will of course take all submissions seriously. 

I was very disappointed to learn of the closure of both New Look and Dorothy Perkins on Holton Road, which stand are a stark reminder that we have more to do to protect our local shops. These were two national chains and their loss will certainly be felt. The closures have a real impact on the community as people lose their jobs and the local offering declines. It must be a priority to make sure that our commercial offer in Barry can compete with other areas and keeps people coming back.

Fortunately, the story for Holton Road, and more widely across Barry, is not as gloomy as to read simply about shop closures. This month we welcome a new brewery, a stonemasonry firm and on High St we’ve got a new pizzeria opening. Business is still giving Barry a vote of confidence and the regeneration of Barry as a whole holds a lot of promise. I’m excited about the possibilities for business in the near future and what this will mean for job creation for local people.

To reach our potential, we need to create and nurture a business friendly environment which will allow Barry to flourish. I’m not convinced that the introduction of car parking charges will help to achieve that. The proposals carry significant risks to the local economy as the local authority will not raise the necessary revenue to cover the cost of the machines – inevitably leading to a rise in the price for parking.  If the aim is to increase customer turnover, by introducing a period of around two hours of parking before the charges kick in, then this will certainly mean that people leave within the time allocated for free parking and the Council will not receive the necessary funds to pay for the machines. I have no doubt that the next step will be to increase the costs, reduce the hours of free parking, or both.

I’m afraid that charges will do nothing to support our many excellent traders. It risks further shop closures, penalises residents who shop local and, ultimately, everyone loses.

That’s why I believe it is vital that residents, along with business owners, engage with the consultation process to strongly oppose any parking charges. I will be making my feelings known and I’m hopeful that the local authority will see the risks and once again park these proposals. You can submit your views online via the consultation section of the Vale of Glamorgan Council website and I strongly advise you to do so before the consultation ends on Friday 28 September.