MP Nick Boles has launched a petition in a bid to bring in two hours of free car parking to Grantham and so help save the town centre.
He wants people to sign the petition on his website to call on South Kesteven District Council to install exit barriers at all its town centre car parks and bring in the free parking period.
He made the announcement in his fortnightly column in the Journal.
When approached by the Journal, Councillor Linda Neal, leader of SKDC, said the authority did not believe free car parking would provide the answer.
“There are lots of things central government could do to help businesses that would have a far greater effect than the impact a district council would have by providing free two-hour parking,” she said.
However, there was immediate support for the idea from Grantham Business Club and Grantham Retailers Association.
Association chairman David Charles commented: “This is fantastic news for town centre businesses. I would urge people to sign the petition and go for this.”
Stuart Pigram, chairman of the business club, said: “This is a positive step and might help in all sorts of ways, because it will suit people who want to drop something off or pop into town for an appointment and do a light shop or bit of other business as well. It adds something.”
He continued: “The council will still get revenue from long term parking and this could ease congestion on side roads.”
Mr Boles said: “If we want to save our town centres, and see them restored as the bustling heart of our communities, we need the local council to give them a level playing field.”
But Coun Neal said: “Our research has revealed the town is busiest at the weekend and in the only multi-storey car park, on Welham Street, it is only 20 per cent full then. The reason is there is lots of free parking in the town centre and local people know where they can go without having to pay.
“And on Sunday, car parks are free anyway.”
She continued: “The effect of the council providing free parking would be that the cost of running them in Grantham – about £470,715 a year – would fall on everyone, rather than on the people who use them.”
She said existing charges were among the cheapest in the county and the cost of installing exit barriers would be around £70,000 and, in any case, some car parks could not have barriers put up without significant investment above that figure.
Coun Neal outlined the significant investment the council had made in Grantham town centre, including £2m for regeneration of Market Place, Westgate and Wide Westgate, £200,000 partnership scheme for repairs to period buildings, £85,000 on a Shop Front Improvement Scheme, Rate Relief schemes, a free business advice programme and a Think Local campaign, among others.
She continued: “Internet shopping is not going to go away and it is something that affects every town, not just Grantham. Despite this, we are addressing the issues in a number of ways by working with groups like the GRA, the business club, networking forums and the Eocnomic Forum to improve retail conditions in the town.
“As economic conditions are showing signs of improvement nationally, I am sure these projects will soon be bearing fruit.”
l What do you think? Will you sign the petition? Is the council doing enough? Let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org