Bristolians fear city will become 'wasteland' and 'ghost town' if free parking scrapped

By Ellie Kendall

The people of Bristol have reacted to news that Bristol City Council is planning to scrap 30-minute free stays in residents’ parking zones (RPZs) across the city.

During a press briefing on Monday (January 10) mayor Marvin Rees and his deputy Cllr Craig Cheney announced a number of proposals, which would help claw back a £19.5million deficit for 2022/23 to deliver a legally required balanced budget.

In some areas at present, drivers without a residents’ or visitors' parking permit can stay for half an hour for free in an RPZ by getting a pay-and-display ticket.

Read more: M-Shed museum in Bristol could be getting a rooftop bar

This would be axed to generate £500,000 if the proposed budget is ratified at cabinet and then approved at full council in February.

Mr Rees said his administration had focussed on protecting frontline services and vulnerable people when balancing the budget for the upcoming year, but that there were "pressures".

News about the decision to scrap the 30-minute free parking has been met with criticism from people living and working in the city.

Bristol Live's Facebook page has been flooded with comments many of which are concerned the move will turn Bristol into a "ghost town".

One reader, Geoff Wood, went so far as to say that "this is the beginning of the end for Broadmead".

"In a year or two it will be a wasteland full of charity shops, offices, the odd café and homeless folk," he added.

Some have also blamed Bristol's parking issues for the recent closure of shops in the city centre, including the closure of Bristol's M&S in Broadmead.

Graham Bloomfield wrote: "Marks & Spencer have a successful store at the Mall and have just closed their Broadmead store. Has that got anything to do with the fact that it costs us £4 to park in Cabot without setting foot in a shop? Push up the parking and push out more shops."

While Stacy Mitchell added: "The Mall is easier to get to as well", and Mark Punter dubbed Broadmead "another failed pedestrianised city centre".

Others, like Kirstie De Beaufort, speculated if The Mall would also eventually see its free parking scrapped, writing: "OK so now we've got the clean air charge coming into the centre and killing off business there, we're expanding charges so the small retail/hospitality businesses can't survive just outside of that either.

"The little independent North Street shops rely on the half hour free parking so people can pop in.

"I wonder if The Mall owners will bring in parking charges in a few years just because they can, as long as its cheaper than the city then people will still go."

Bristolians also felt that ridding the city of the residential parking zones would mean that they could no longer "run essentials into vulnerable family members or collect for appointments".

One reader, Angela Davis, questioned how those working in care roles and similar would manage if free parking was to be scrapped for good.

She said: "Those free half hours are useful for people like us carers who need to do care calls in parking zones, in fact an hour's free parking would be even more useful. We can't claim for parking fees from our companies and don't earn enough for it to come out of our own pocket."

To which Sophie Francis suggested: "You should either have a parking permit paid for by the client or you should be including parking charges in your travel expense forms.

"If your company is refusing to pay it then tell them you won't be visiting that client anymore. It's not your job to pay out of pocket."

Some Bristolians simply said that they haven't ventured into the centre of the city "for years" due to their worries over where to park and how much parking costs.

The measures, along with other savings in how the council operates, is said to claw back a £19.5million deficit for 2022/23 to deliver a legally required balanced budget.

Council tenants’ rent will go up by the cost of inflation plus one per cent but there will be no cuts to frontline services, including libraries and children’s centres.

In the report, the authority said higher parking fees would raise an extra £2.3million, along with £1million from bus shelter advertising.

The mayor also said that the impact of the pandemic has also remained a financial burden.

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