Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:01 pm on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton 12:01 pm, 3rd February 2017

My hon. Friend makes a good point and I could not agree more. We are looking for a symbiotic relationship between the local authority and businesses. There already is a close relationship. The local authority benefits from the success of businesses—retail or otherwise—in its town, but that conversation is sometimes not as comprehensive as it needs to be. The relationship sometimes lacks understanding. The provisions of this Bill about consultation when there is a change to car parking charges and the ability to lower car parking charges without going through a detailed process are why it is so important that we take the Bill through.

My town of Malton is another good example. Unusually, most of the shops, houses and car parks in the centre are owned by a family estate, the Fitzwilliam estate. It is in the estate’s interest for the centre to be a vibrant commercial environment, so, as well as investing heavily in the town and in improving the shops, it gave two hours of free parking in the town centre car parks. That has developed the fantastically vibrant commercial activity we see in Malton.

Malton has been tremendously successful and very clever. A guy called Tom Naylor-Leyland set out to develop a brand around Malton, which he calls Yorkshire’s food capital. The Malton food festival is a fantastic weekend, and hon. Members must consider coming—it is a wonderful weekend to attend. It is vibrant, with music and a beer festival. There is some of Yorkshire’s finest food, and Yorkshire is the finest place for food, as Members can tell. The food festival has been a wonderful success story, and the town has regenerated on the back of it. It has to be seen to be believed. There is a symbiotic relationship between the car park owners, the town centre owners and the businesses, with a deep understanding between the three.

A lot of coach parties come to see the wonders of Helmsley, a fantastic market town. Richard III, the last king of the house of York, had a connection with Helmsley castle, as well as with Richmond castle. As the Minister said earlier, Helmsley was successful in the British high street awards, winning best market town on the back of the fantastic efforts of the town’s traders and local authority. Coach parking charges were introduced in one of its car parks, which deterred coaches carrying 50 tourists from coming to the town. Local people went to the council and campaigned on that issue, and they got the parking charges removed, which brought the coach parties back to the town. That is a good example of how businesses and local authorities, working together, can have a positive effect and foster a deep understanding of some of the challenges of running small independent businesses.

Those are positive examples, but we have heard others. According to the Royal Automobile Club, £756 million was spent on charges and penalties for parking in car parks across the UK in 2016, which is up 9% on 2015 and up 34% on 2010. That can be a tax on shoppers, and it can also be a tax on businesses. Businesses are paying rates and want service from their council yet, as we have heard, they are seen as sitting ducks or golden geese, or as both at the same time. We should make sure that we look after those golden geese and not treat them as sitting ducks because, ultimately, shoppers and businesses will vote with their feet.