CUMBRIA’S tourism chief has called for the county to have a ‘coherent parking strategy’ in the wake of a decision to introduce parking meters.
Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, believes car parking is too ‘confusing’ for visitors.
Cumbria County Council’s decision to bring on-street charging to Kendal, Bowness and Ambleside was upheld last month.
Mr Stephens said: “Unfortunately we have the situation where there’s at least four different providers of parking here - the Lake District National Park Authority, the National Trust, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria County Council.
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“There’s no transferability and it’s not friendly for visitors to have such a confusing regime.”
Mr Stephens said Cumbria needed a ‘coherent parking strategy’ and Cumbria Tourism would make a ‘renewed effort’ to lobby local authorities to get one.
He said he would like to see visitors pay for their parking on the tourist board’s website when they booked their accommodation.
“There would be an icon - buy your parking ticket for the week and then you can park anywhere for £20 or whatever the price might be.”
However, he conceded that local authority agreement was difficult because councils relied on parking charges revenue.
“It’s a vital source of income for councils but unfortunately it’s not going to improve the visitor economy,” said Mr Stephens. “I have a duty to improve the visitor experience here and that would do it overnight - that’s the headache gone.”
Mr Stephens was equally outspoken about budget hotels and said the Lake District had nothing to fear from national chains like Premier Inn but did not want the park ‘over-run’ with them.
The hotel chain is still hoping to win permission for a 66-room hotel in a ‘historic’ corner of Ambleside, despite objections.
“The Ambleside application is more complex because it’s in an historic area and it’s on a very difficult site and I’m not entirely sure that all the planning requirements can be satisfied there, so there is no guarantee it will happen at this stage.”
Mr Stephens said that any hotel would need to be in the ‘appropriate’ place and that would need to acknowledge the ‘sensitivity’ of the Lakes environment.
He added: “Premier Inn will have huge numbers of potential visitors on their database and they will sell the Lake District and Cumbria as effectively as we do. In Kendal they have 97 bedrooms and it’s very successful. Has Kendal suffered? I don’t think Kendal has.”