I have a sad story to tell....
The first Sunday that new [Banbury] parking charges came into effect around three years ago, I picked up an £80 fine dished out by two laughing parking attendants who pointed me to a makeshift sign showing the new charges/times.
I vowed not to use the Banbury town centre again until my £80 was refunded or there was free parking put in place.
True to my word, my family of five have used Chipping Norton (free parking ) for our supplies ever since.
The big losers in Banbury from my wallet were/are: Blockbuster, Banbury Cycles, Cafe Nero, Marks & Spencer, TK Max, Betts Butcher, Woolworths, Spiceball, Thai Orchid, Game, Debenhams and Boots.
I call this story sad, because I am sad for the beautiful market town of Banbury and its traders.
Last week I dropped my car in the Thorpe Road Industrial Estate and ran back to Bloxham via the town centre. I spent some money in Boots and had my hair cut – gosh the first £50 for three years !
Banbury town centre is a shadow of its former self – the market is almost dead and individual shops have all but disappeared.
Everyone loses; those who live in the town and surrounding villages and visitors forlornly seeking something more interesting than the ubiquitous shopping mall. I support the campaign for free parking because it will bring back shoppers, which in turn will encourage individual shops to open.
Councillors should find out how West Oxfordshire District Council has made a success of free parking in Witney.
Next, I suggest the Farmers’ Market is moved to Saturdays when more people are able to shop. Combine it with the Charter Market and encourage local crafts people to participate too. It can be done – look at Deddington Community Market which is fabulous.
Banbury is a gem and deserves better.
Mary Evans Young
Harriers View, Banbury
Free parking is not the answer to Banbury’s old town problems.
It’s pointless for people to compare Banbury with Witney. Witney doesn’t have a massive indoor shopping centre between its main car parks and its old shopping streets. Banbury does.
Instead, compare Banbury with bustling Leamington Spa, which does have an indoor shopping centre and parking charges slightly higher than Banbury.
The difference is that Leamington’s shopping precinct was built as part of the town centre, unlike Banbury where Castle Quay is designed to take trade away from the old town streets.
There is another major difference between Banbury and Leamington – its old town shopping streets haven’t been pedestrianised.
Traffic still flows and there is plenty of on-street parking.
In Banbury, pedestrianisation was the last nail in the coffin for High Street, Broad Street and then Parson’s Street. When High Street and Broad Street were open to traffic and short stay parking was allowed in both streets they were busy. But take away the traffic, take away the trade.
When Castle Quay opened, Cherwell District Council did everything possible to divert people into Castle Quay. Road signage from the motorway and other main roads directed drivers to Castle Quay car parks.
Old town traders should be campaigning for a reversal of pedestrianisation, not free parking.
Refusing permission for Castle Quay 2 will also help.
The Banbury Guardian has been clear in its support for the proposed Gateway development, which will provide a lot of competition to the town centre.
It has also supported the calls for free parking to stimulate town centre trade, but Cherwell has said it cannot afford to lose the revenue parking charges provide.
Perhaps you could ask your followers to indicate how they would want to see the council finance free parking.
The council cannot finance reduced parking revenue by raising the council tax as the Government would simply punish it by reducing government grant.
So, real cuts in spending would be needed. Most of the council’s spending is on services it is required by law to provide – eg planning, refuse collection, street cleaning, housing the homeless and administering benefits.
The council cannot stop doing these things, and has been working for years to reduce its costs, such as by reducing headcount, moving to fortnightly refuse collection and cutting back on accommodation.
Any savings of the scale required will have to come from those services which the council does not have to provide but chooses to, such as sports and leisure facilities and grants to voluntary organisations.
The final accounts to March 31, 2013 are published on the council’s website and the detailed budget for this year can also be found there.
More letters in this week’s Banbury Guardian