26 November 2018
Merton Green Party has been contacted by a local resident, Nicola Thompson, who has questioned a supposed 'perk' offered by Merton Council: provision of free parking over the Christmas period. Nicola has rightly queried whether offering free parking really benefits local businesses and suggests that improving air quality and sustainable transport links in shopping areas would ultimately be a more worthwhile goal.
Nicola's email to Councillor Martin Whelton can be found below. Mr Whelton replied on the same day to confirm that free Christmas parking had been reduced this year to make some 'considerable savings'.
We would like to thank Nicola for drawing our attention to this worthwhile correspondence.
Dear Mr Whelton,
I was disappointed to see a feature on page 6 of the new edition of My Merton, advertising 'Park for free this Christmas'.
Why does the council continue to promote this 'perk' for motorists, despite evidence that it contributes to congestion and pollution in the borough's town centres, as well as costing the authority £60k in lost revenues? Where exactly is the upside for this policy?
I refer you to the point 2.7 of the following document, dated September 2018, where the costs and implications of this policy are clearly set out:
Free parking evidently offers no benefit to traders, the environment or the majority of shoppers in the pre-Christmas period.
Rather than benefiting the local retail sector, free parking in fact enables central London shoppers and theatregoers to drive to Wimbledon and conveniently leave their cars there gratis while they catch the train to Waterloo. For this, Merton residents suffer increased road congestion, polluted air AND lose out on a much-needed £60k.
This is clear from the following points detailed in the document referred to above, which states:
2.7.9 The low turnover in parking spaces in the councils town centre car parks leads to increased traffic on the roads, resulting in increased congestions, and as a result of this, increased pollution.
2.7.10 Feedback from business partners has indicated that the free Christmas parking has not resulted in increased footfall to their businesses beyond that expected at this time of year, particularly as more shopping activities are done online.
It is extremely disappointing that Merton Council ignores this evidence and instead again offers free parking for the seventh year in a row.
Rather than crowing about this offer, I suggest the Council could reap some much-needed positive PR by proclaiming an end to the un-eco, polluting practice of encouraging people to drive to Wimbledon, and instead emphasise the ease of reaching our town centre by sustainable means: cycling or public transport.
Perhaps next year will be different? I hope so.
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