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AXMINSTER: Parking plus for town’s ‘unique’ trading issues

Thursday, 15 May 2014

It was Axminster’s “unique issues” which paved the way for an exclusive car park trial approved last week, according to chamber of commerce chairman Lisa Lyman. As expected, East Devon District Council’s Cabinet agreed last Wednesday to introduce a £2 maximum daily charge in all its pay and display car parks in the town after 10am on a trial basis. The trial is exclusive to Axminster and the decision came after intense lobbying by Axminster Chamber of Commerce. Chamber chairman Lisa Lyman said: “After attending discussions between East Devon Chambers of Commerce and EDDC, it quickly became apparent to us that Axminster has unique issues regarding parking. ‘We have to work much harder’ “Axminster businesses are in competition with neighbouring towns in West Dorset and South Somerset towns, with cheaper parking. “As an inland rural town, we have to work much harder to encourage people into our town. “After discussions with visitors, businesses and residents, it was felt that £2 was easy to part with, whereas £3 took a little more thought. “The exception to this is the Coombe Lane car park which will rise by 50p after 10am. “In our experience this car park is usually quite full by 10am at the £1.50 rate, and with our other three car parks being reduced by £1, we do not believe it will be much of an issue. “We are very hopeful that this trial will encourage more people into our town and for them to stay longer without the time pressure, and enjoy more of what we all work so hard to offer. “We are grateful to Andrew Ennis, (EDDC officer) for putting the chamber proposal to the district council, and to our town council for supporting the chamber with this trial. “Now it’s down to statistics - if the revenue goes up, we may be able to keep the lower rate.” The starting date has not been announced, but it has been confirmed it will take place at some point this month. District councillor Iain Chubb, EDDC’s Cabinet member for Environment, said: “This scheme is an example of EDDC working smarter and engaging with communities. “We have been working with town representatives to find a mutually acceptable way of supporting town centre economies. “We have looked in some detail at the pattern of use of Axminster’s car parks and, whilst the analysis shows a very healthy rate of turnover of spaces, the average transaction in the main car parks (South Street and West Street short stay) is actually £1.10 and £1.11 respectively. “Very few of Axminster’s visitors seem to be tempted to stay longer. “We have therefore decided to see how motorists react to the £2 cap from 10 am. “There is a chance that we will lose revenue but it’s also possible that patterns of parking may change and we could break even. “There are some unknown quantities here, but we think it is worth testing the water and finding out if a summer offer helps the town’s traders without having a negative impact on the income that we need in order to maintain and improve not just car parks but other district amenities”. EDDC operates pay and display car parks in West Street, South Street, Coombe Lane and Poplar Mount. Whilst Coombe Lane offers a low tariff (£1.50 per day), the long stay car parks at West Street and Poplar Mount charge visitors £1 per hour (£3 all day) and the short stay car parks in West Street and South Street charge £1 per hour, right to up a £10 maximum daily charge. Councillor Chubb added: “The offer starts from 10am to avoid any possibility of premium parking spaces designed primarily for visitors and shoppers becoming blocked by people commuting into town to work or, perhaps even worse in Axminster’s case, using the car park as a cheap park-and ride-facility enabling them to take a train to Exeter or even London for the day. “The chamber of commerce has told us that town centre business reported a considerable benefit arising from our Christmas 2013 offer, which capped the maximum daily charge in all car parks to just £2. “That offer was designed to encourage visitors to spend more time, and perhaps money, in the town without having to worry about rushing back to a car park because their pay and display session was about to end”. The plan is to run the trial until the end of October, but EDDC reserves the right to withdraw the offer if car parks become “unduly congested with cars parked by people abusing the spirit of the new system”.


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