The company behind the Castle Quay shopping centre expansion has confirmed it has been holding talks with a supermarket firm willing to offer two hours’ free parking to Banbury shoppers.
Scottish Widows Investment Partnership Plc, which is currently developing plans for the expansion of the shopping centre approved by Cherwell District Council in February this year, confirmed as the Banbury Guardian went to press yesterday (Wednesday) that it is in talks with an as yet unnamed store which could come into the new development with an offer of two hours’ free parking.
Kahrene Lawrie, media relations manager for SWIP, issued a statement saying: “As part of the development, we’ve been speaking to a foodstore who has expressed a desire to offer two hours’ free parking which we would look to support.”
Also this week the owner of a Banbury hair salon has vowed to reimburse customers who visit his Church Lane business for the cash they have to stump up for current parking fees.
Bessem Chaouch, who owns Francesco’s men’s hairdressers, said he will knock £3 off the price of every £13 hair cut for customers who park in Banbury to visit his salon. The move has reignited debate on town centre parking charges.
Mr Chaouch said: “A lot of people don’t want to come and park in town and have to pay £2.50 on top of the price of a hair cut, so this will help local businesses.
“It’s just disgusting charging to park. Sometimes people don’t want to go shopping, they just want to go for a coffee but still have to pay for parking.” Mr Chaouch, who has lived in Banbury for four-and-a-half years, opened a new salon in Chipping Norton last week and said free parking in the town centre was one of the big draws for setting up shop there.
“It’s free parking in Chipping Norton right in front of my store,” he said.
“It’s actually busier than Banbury. There are more cars and people walking there compared to Banbury for a town the size of Chipping Norton.”
Malcolm Douglas, owner of Henry’s Menswear in High Street, Banbury, is the town’s most vociferous campaigner for two hours’ free town centre parking. He believes it is up to the council not retailers to subsidise parking.
Mr Douglas said: “Why the hell should we? It’s up to the local authority not up to us.
“I’m not doing the council’s job for them. West Oxfordshire have organised it and Witney’s booming because they have a proper system.”
Mr Douglas is continuing to promote a free parking poster and Twitter campaign at town centre stores.
Barry Whitehouse, chairman of Banbury’s Old Town Association, believes it is up to individual businesses to offer discounts but said it would be hard to find a blanket solution. “Some shops could afford to do that which is fair enough but we can’t all afford to do it,” he said.
Earlier this year Mr Douglas teamed up with Mr Whitehouse to create and print 300 yellow posters calling for free parking distributed around the town.
Cherwell District Council owns 26 per cent of all available parking spaces in Banbury and has repeatedly said it cannot afford to offer free parking. The remainder of town centre car parks are run privately by firms such as Scottish Widows and NCP.
To find out more about the campaign see #freeparkinginBanbury on Twitter.