TRADERS claim that customers are boycotting Kendal town centre in protest at new car park machines introduced by South Lakeland District Council.
The machines are designed to prevent motorists passing part-paid tickets on to other drivers. Visitors to car parks now have to enter their car registration. Independent traders see the introduction of the machines as another inconvenience to shoppers who also have to fork out high parking fees.
Kendal businesswoman, Karin Grandal-Park, who owns Room 19 on Stricklandgate, is so angry that the authority has spent £340,000 on the new pay and display machines that she is now offering a £1 parking ‘refund’ to customers who spend at least £10 in her giftware shop.
“I felt that this was just another obstacle to put people off coming into Kendal,” she said.
“I often get complaints from customers about the cost of parking. People have only so much money to spend. Footfall is down and if we don’t do something we will end up with a ghost town.”
Derek Armstrong, business development manager with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said he expected other traders to follow suit.
“We often get complaints about parking,” he said. “And it is interesting to see that retailers are willing to take this further step to help offset costs.
“It is good to see retailers stepping up to the mark and I think it is something that could grow. It is something we will consider at Made in Cumbria.”
Gwen MacAuley, owner of Inglewood Cards on Highgate, said some of her customers were ‘resentful’ of the new parking machines and said: “It is very short-sighted to gain revenue that way.”
Goronwy Parry, owner of Highgate Carpets, said: “Customers complain all the time about the parking and nothing will happen to improve the town until that is resolved.
“We have lost customers that we had for years from Grasmere and Coniston because they find it easier to go to Barrow than to come into Kendal.”
Adrienne Williams who owns Williams’ Wool, in Kirkland, said trade was definitely affected by the parking, with customers more likely to drive out to supermarkets to save the ‘hassle’ of the town centre.
“They (SLDC) promote Kendal as the gateway to the Lakes, which means you hope people will come to the town, but make it so hard to actually bring a car here,” she said.
Yesterday K Village in Kendal announced that parking charges were to be slashed to just £1 for four hours in the run-up to Christmas.
Manager Mandy Dixon said: “We know parking is a big issue for Kendal and has been brought up time and time again by both local shoppers and visitors.
“We’ve been pushing over the past couple of months to get car parking charges lowered for a trial period.”
There has been praise for a trial by SLDC which has seen charges at four spots across South Lakeland slashed for three months, with traders saying it is beneficial to those who just want to spend a few minutes in shops.
In Grange, shoppers have been using Kents Bank car park for 20p for the first half hour.
Vicky Johnston who owns At Home Bistro said: “A lot of the businesses have said it’s been a good idea and certainly more people are parking in town.
“But there have been a lot of comments about how the new machines are a waste of money and it is unfair that you can’t pass your ticket on.”
Coun Ian Stewart, SLDC’s portfolio holder for enterprise and economy, said: “SLDC welcomes any initiative which encourages more people to shop in Kendal and hope others follow this example. Car parking is competitively priced and is a vital source of income for the authority.”