Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 12:32 pm, 3rd February 2017

Absolutely—I could not agree more.

Bury St Edmunds has a 6% retail occupancy rate, which, as my hon. Friend will know, is very low—in fact, it is 50% of the national average. Bury St Edmunds won the award for the best Christmas fair anywhere in the country this year. It has a plethora of things we can enjoy. It has its own cathedral. Tonight, I hope to attend a performance of “Northanger Abbey” at the Theatre Royal, which is one of the only regency theatres in the country. All of that is fantastic, but there are also great things in Stowmarket and Needham Market. However, these places are different, and we need to understand how the Bill can address that.

There is one thing I would like to ask the Minister, and perhaps he can write to me if today is not the time to tease it out. In my area, I have a county council, a borough council, a district council and three town councils. Very often, it is only the fact that those councils work well together that facilitates solutions, despite the complexity involved in different authorities owning different car parks. For example, when Stowmarket Town Council wished to have a cheaper parking rate of £1 for two hours, that was facilitated through collaboration with the district council. Sometimes in these multiple tiers, we have a complexity that even a simple instrument such as this Bill may not address. There might be a little more work to do to deal with areas where things are not as simple as in a unitary authority or a metropolitan authority so that those areas can have conversations that facilitate changes to their local environment—to their car parking—more quickly than is possible at the moment.

That is particularly pertinent in places such as Bury, where we have the contra-problem to a lot of towns: we often do not have enough car parking spaces. It would be really good if these places could drive issues such as the funding of multi-storey car parks, which would allow us to have more parking so that our town centres are not sclerotic. When our town centres are blocked—hopefully, that is what the Bill will address—it is my residents who suffer. When people park somewhere in the town without thinking, residents cannot access their houses. Permits are good, but they stop people parking for business, and that is what I mean about this issue being about the whole environment.