Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:35 am on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Conservative, Derby North 11:35 am, 3rd February 2017

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend David Tredinnick on achieving his goal of a measure that is incredibly simple but makes a lot of common sense. The importance of the Bill should not be underestimated, though. Over the past five years, Derby City Council has made about £20 million from parking charges and fines, but instead of that money just being focused on parking, the Bill will enable us to consider what we should be doing with it for the city and its regeneration, so that we can make it easier for people to come in and use our city wisely.

The aim behind the Bill, rightly, is to provide flexibility. Trying to get people coming into our cities more often is particularly important. The Great British high street awards have been mentioned, and the cathedral quarter in Derby won the high street of the year award last year. We are very proud of that. The way we did that is not to be underestimated, because we had the challenge of a new centre that had been built 10 years ago, offering parking and shopping in one place, which had taken business away from other parts of the city. Now, we are working on regenerating two other parts of the city, and parking plays a significant part in that. I want to encourage flexibility for councils so that they can have cheaper parking in certain areas one Saturday a month, for instance, or free parking at night or for an hour in the morning, as my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake mentioned. The Bill provides a great opportunity for such things to be considered.

The work of the business improvement district in Derby, which I have spoken about before, should not be underestimated. It has the challenge of getting people who would normally prefer convenience shopping to take advantage of places outside the shopping centre. One way in which it can do that is by providing reasonable and convenient parking. People will then think of those areas as somewhere for destination shopping, where they can park readily in the knowledge that the cost will be reasonable, get out of their car and do their shopping. We can help small businesses by doing that and encourage a two-centre shopping experience rather than the one-centre experience that seemed dominant at one point.

In Derby, we take great advantage of the use of events. For instance, we have the Derby Festé, which is really well attended, with people performing in the streets, and Christmas markets and farmers markets. With those events, we are trying to regenerate an area of Derby for people to enjoy and seek entertainment. Clearly, these events need a parking offer to make attendance more attractive. Otherwise, people tend to park at the shopping centre and then not leave to visit other places for their entertainment. The Bill is a great opportunity to respond to local need.

We must encourage people to walk between destinations. The cheaper offer at shopping centres means that people tend to park and then stay there. With a cheaper offer outside the centres, say in the cathedral quarter or St Peters quarter, people might park there and then explore other parts of our great city, including the Market Hall, where they can experience the delights of the Derby pyclet, which I can recommend to hon. Members. For those who do not know—[Interruption.] Yes, it’s a flattened crumpet.

Like my hon. Friend Craig Whittaker, I was in retail for over 30 years. The value of retail to our economy is not to be underestimated. The Federation of Small Businesses has highlighted that parking charges are one of the main factors discouraging shoppers from visiting traditional high streets. It is important that we regenerate our traditional high streets, including the independent retailers, and get people using them again, and variable parking charges could definitely encourage that.

As mentioned, there is an issue with online shopping. We have to make it as easy and attractive as possible for people to visit our high streets and cities, instead of shopping online and having the items delivered to their door. Derby—like many other city centres, I suspect—is trying to boost not just its daytime economy but its night-time economy. It would be lovely to see people walking along our high streets, taking in some café culture, and enjoying the richness of our cathedral city.

During my time as an MP, I have taken part in small business Saturday each year and done short shifts in some of our local shops. We must do everything we can to get people into these shops. If they can park easily, we can get them through the doors, and then they will see the unique and interesting offer.