Why Camden Council says no to free Christmas parking: ‘There’s no benefit to traders’

Free or half-price parking during the festive season does not benefit residents or traders as most shoppers use public transport to get to their nearest town centre, Camden Council claims.

The local authority does not offer any incentives for motorists doing Christmas shopping in local high streets despite neighbouring Barnet, Brent and Haringey councils giving their residents free or discounted parking in the run-up to Christmas.

As with all local authorities, Camden and Westminster will relax some parking restrictions on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day but both charge the same amount for parking in December and early January as in all other months.

Camden Council says free or half-price festive parking schemes lead to clogged-up streets as commuters take advantage of the temporary measures, meaning that fewer shoppers stop.

Cllr Phil Jones, cabinet member for transport, said: “Footfall within our town centres is not solely dependent upon the parking restrictions in place.

“We are naturally supportive of the desire to entice shoppers to the high street. However, studies have shown that shopkeepers have consistently overestimated the proportion of their customers who come by car.”

Camden has used 2011 research from Transport for London (TfL) to justify its decision not to offer discounted parking rates, which shows that pedestrians spend 65 per cent more than motorists.

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Fifty-three per cent of the capital’s shoppers used public transport and 28 per cent walked to get to town centres, compared with 14 per cent travelling by car, according to the same survey.

In Haringey, Christmas shoppers can enjoy half-price parking every weekend in December in all council-run car parks and at pay and display parking bays on streets, but only if they are tech-savvy and pay by phone.

Members of traders’ associations in all of Haringey’s town centres can also benefit from a parking loyalty scheme, where returning customers can get discounted parking rates.

But Labour-run Haringey Council has been criticised by the local Liberal Democrats group for failing to offer residents free parking at weekends in December like their Conservative neighbours at Barnet Council.

Cllr Richard Wilson, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, said: “They are cutting their nose off to spite their face by charging too much for parking locally.

“They just don’t get the importance of boosting the economy and local high streets. They are forcing people out of the borough to go shopping in places where they have free parking.

“Other boroughs seem able to do it so why shouldn’t Haringey?”

Cllr John Bevan, cabinet member for environment at Haringey Council, said: “The run up to Christmas is such an important time for both busy shoppers and local retailers which is why this year’s festive parking scheme is about ensuring all town centres benefit from parking reductions during every Saturday and Sunday in December.”

Camden Council believes offering free or discounted parking would “worsen local congestion and impact negatively on the environment, which would not be attractive to shoppers”.

But Cllr Wilson said Haringey is very different to the inner London borough of Camden and that congestion could be reduced if shoppers are able to park free of charge for a short period of time to quickly pop into their local shops instead of driving further to boroughs that offer free parking.