Grantham Journal columnist: David Burling backs call for free parking

David Burling - Labour

David Burling - Labour

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As a long time promoter of free car parking in Grantham, I was astounded to read that Richard Davies has come over from the dark side and sees the undeniable benefits of making this change.

For me, this could be a groundbreaking moment. A high ranking Conservative in Lincolnshire is calling for more public subsidy of our town centres to play a vital role in creating a competitive environment for our independent and small retailers.

In my conversations with the business community, they only ask for a level playing field. They do not have the deep pockets of the supermarkets or the chain retailers who can move into retail parks whose customers can benefit from large, adjacent car parks, free for a limited time.

Our small retailers rely on the on-street car parking and council-owned car parks to provide their shoppers with a space to park whilst they explore Grantham.

So whilst so many of the business community are crying out for this, many of whom have a direct line into the local policy makers, why hasn’t this happened? Will Richard Davies’ intervention last week actually make any kind of difference?

There are a couple of reasons why I am not hopeful. Firstly, the district council benefits from around £700,000 in revenue from the council-owned car parks across the district. Many of these charges are from sub two-hour tickets. For the council to agree to such a move, that money would have to be found on a long-term basis from other areas of the budget.

The other reason is down to the local power games played between the Conservative-led administrations in South Kesteven District Council and on Lincolnshire County Council. I know that last week’s intervention from Richard Davies has not gone down well with SKDC’s cabinet.

With a local administration more interested in political games than the communities they serve, I am not hopeful that common sense ideas will prevail.

I am glad Richard is now supporting the call for free parking in Grantham. I am just hoping that his Conservative colleagues see sense and make it happen.