Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:15 pm on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent 12:15 pm, 3rd February 2017

I shall do my best to focus on the content of the Bill. I must congratulate my hon. Friend David Tredinnick on bringing in this brief but important Bill, which, as other Members have said, could be of such benefit to our constituents. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake who has talked about the many benefits of the Bill. Although I will try to stick to the topic, I will follow his example in ensuring that I do not duck the issues that need to be raised.

I am very lucky to represent a constituency that is peppered with historic towns and villages. In particular, there is the historic market town of Faversham and the villages of Lenham and Headcorn. I mention those not because the other villages are not worthwhile and worth visiting, but because those three all have car parks. The car parks are very important, as they allow residents to access the shops and services in each of those centres. Despite the pressures and the appeal of out-of-town shopping, supermarkets and the internet, those centres are doing pretty well.

Just last year, Faversham was a rising star award winner in the Great British High Street awards. I take great pleasure in regularly shopping in the town. There are lots of small shops that provide goods and services that can be quite hard to find. If someone goes to the supermarket or an out-of-town store, they are unlikely, for instance, to be able to get their pictures framed. In town, they can get a fabulous selection of flowers in the florist—an appropriate bunch can be made up for them to take to an event. A yarn shop has recently opened, serving the boom in knitting, sewing and crafts. There are new shops opening in the town as well as many historic sites to visit.

These towns and villages are managing despite the pressures that they are under, but it is not easy. Sadly, Faversham had to say goodbye to its sweetshop just a couple of weeks ago. It was a lovely feature of the town, as all its sweets looked so attractive. That has now fallen foul of the pressures we have been discussing, as well as our attempts to live healthier lives. Perhaps the children of Faversham are not eating so many sweets now. I know that my son will miss going to that shop when we cycle into town; it has been a destination for us.

I value our towns and village centres enormously, as I know many of my constituents do. It is not just about the shops that we can visit, but the way in which these centres serve as a community meeting place. People in the market square, or in the marketplace in Faversham, will often bump into somebody they have not seen for a while. For me, it is a great way to catch up with constituents and councillors. I almost always meet not one but several people as I go through Faversham. My husband knows not to expect me back at the time I have said, as I will inevitably meet several people and have long conversations as I go through.