Calls to review withdrawal of ‘two-hour’ free town centre parking defeated

By Chris Gee

A council decision to withdraw two-hours free parking in Bolton town centre will not be reviewed after an opposition motion was defeated.

Two hours of free parking in on-street bays was brought in around the start of the pandemic to help the struggling high street.

The scheme had been in place at multi-storeys since 2012 and also included free weekend and bank holiday parking.

It came to an end on July 19 after being extended from its original planned end date last November in order to continue supporting businesses blighted by the pandemic and lockdowns.

This decision was opposed by opposition Labour councillors who believed this decision had been made ‘without the full facts’.

Labour leader Coun Nick Peel, told a meeting of the full council: “The report that councillor Cox approved taking away the free parking contains no analysis or narrative whatsoever on the effect of the withdrawal
would have on Bolton’s retail and cultural sector.

“Therefore it’s a statement of fact that Coun Cox made his decision without full knowledge of the facts.

“If you believe that an executive member should have full knowledge before making a decision then you should support this motion.

“Members of the public have been denied the opportunity to understand the consequences of the decision.

“We accept that the financial implications are a crucial factor but there are other crucial factors not examined.

“Most importantly, the businesses in the town centre will be adversely affected.

“It it a shocking omission in the decision making process.

“We simply do not know how this will affect footfall, shopping turnover and cash registers for town centre businesses.”

Councillors heard that the scheme cost £24,000 per month for two-hours free on-street parking and between £48,000 and £61,000 per month for two-hours free parking in some multi-storeys.

That equates to around £862,000 per year from council finds.

Coun Adele Warren said ‘there was no budget left’ to subsidise parking and other services would need ot be cut to continue it.

Council leader Martyn Cox, said: “Trying to forecast what would happen in the future would not be a fact.

“What area would you like to stop doing to provide free parking for private motorists driving into the town centre?

“There is also a much bigger point. We have been talking at the council about what is described as a climate emergency.

“We cannot use money from people who use public transport to subsidise those who use private transport.”

The motion to review the decision was defeated with a majority of councillors voting against.


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