REPRESENTATIVES of small businesses are warning of the effect on Sheffield city centre of the impending rises in council car parking charges.
“The implementation of a 17% rise in parking charges is the classic example of a policy driven through without any reflection on its likely impact on jobs and livelihoods,” said Gordon Millward, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.
“Barring the strident efforts of a few dazzling private traders, the city centre is already deprived of life and vitality, thanks to council indolence and ineptitude. Is it so beyond the wit of council planners to understand that a 17% increase in parking charges will merely serve to force more businesses into closure, reducing visitors even further and resulting in still greater falls in parking revenue?”
The council is preparing to introduce higher parking fees for the city centre and suburbs within the next few weeks, once technical details of updating 400 parking machines are resolved.
Some prices at many city centre off-street car parks will be reduced, but many other fees are going up to generate an extra £781,000 a year, helping to offset £50m cuts in government grants.
On-street parking spaces around the edge of the city centre will cost 50p per half hour. For more central spaces, the charge will be £1 per half hour. It currently costs 65p to park for half an hour in the middle of the city centre.
Two big changes will see the introduction of a flat £1 charge for parking on Sundays and drivers having to pay to park on-street until 8.30pm instead of 6.30pm.
The FSB launched its attack soon after it failed to persuade the council to back an independent inquiry into whether Sheffield Airport should be reopened. “A council which has lost the ability to think creatively will always deploy the blunt instrument rather than the surgeon’s scalpel,” said Mr Millward.
Online comment was largely critical. One resident said: “People will just ignore town and go to Meadowhall or out for the day to Leeds where there are some decent shops.”
Another said: “Everyone tells us that the high street is dying because of free parking at out-of-town shopping centres. Yet our council combat this with higher parking charges?”
One resident said that parking at Meadowhall may be free, but the traders paid a premium on their rent. “Could the city centre traders be asked to make an additional contribution to help keep costs down?”