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Council Defends Car Park Charges: Usage Nearly Back To Pre-Pandemic Levels

Published on: 3 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 5 Jul, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford Borough Council has defended its car park charges. This is against claims the charges are deterring shoppers by saying ticket numbers across the council’s car parks “are only 4 per cent below pre-Covid April and May 2019” and that April 2022 “was the busiest April for car park sales since 2016”.

The Castle car park is “regularly full” says Cllr John Redpath, but shop owners say parking costs are deterring shoppers.

But with potentially conflicting data on footfall showing around a 20 per cent fall on pre-pandemic levels, traders in the town have continued to complain about parking charges, saying it is affecting their businesses.

A trader told The Dragon he accepted parking was not a huge cost but claimed it was putting shoppers off from coming into the town. He said: “Look at the car parks virtually at any time and they are empty”.

Guildford Borough Council says car park occupancy is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels but shop owners disagree.

This was contradicted by Cllr John Redpath (R4GV, Holy Trinity) on June 24, who said: “The Castle Car Park has been noticeably busier since the £3 minimum charge was introduced and also of course as shoppers have returned post-pandemic.

“It is regularly full or has cars queuing back along Sydenham Road waiting to get in. The queues on Fridays are much longer.”

And reacting to claims by Amanda Masters of Experience Guildford that parking costs were affecting footfall, he said: “I honestly think that your concerns of car parking charges damaging footfall are unfounded and the extra 20p an hour soon to be added to that will make next to no difference to visitor numbers. Inflation and the cost of living will do far more harm, if harm is to be done.”

Cllr John Redpath

A short survey in the town centre seemed to show locals were more opposed to the parking charges than visitors, who said they were happy with the cost and availability of car parks.

A father from Weybridge picking up his daughter from a weekly Saturday class in the town said: “I don’t have a problem parking here. It’s not more expensive than Weybridge.” A family visiting from Farnham said: “It cost us £3 which is reasonable.”

But one Guildford resident said: “I don’t like it. It’s stressful trying to find a place and it’s too expensive. I don’t stop long to shop, I go for something in and out. It isn’t an easy experience.”

And locals Rob and Alison said: “lt’s too expensive compared to other towns such as Chichester. It used to be free and you could park anywhere. Why is the motorist the cash cow for everyone? Money is tight now, very tight.

“Public transport is rubbish, one bus per hour. It’s unreliable. And they have closed the park and ride.”

Guildford parking charges during the day for Bedford Road, Castle, G Live, Millbrook, Tunsgate and York Road car parks, designated as “shopper”, are £3 for up to three hours, £6 up to six hours and £12 over six hours.

But the catch, say traders, is the minimum charge of £3. This makes it more expensive than some other towns if you only need to stay for an hour.

The cost in Chichester for central, short-stay parking is £2 per hour for up to four hours. Similarly at the Victoria Way car park in Woking, the charge of £1.60 per hour for up to four hours is more expensive than Guildford, if you stay for more than one hour.

Cllr James Steel

Guildford Borough Council’s lead councillor for the environment, including responsibility for car parking, James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough) said: “The shopper tariff was introduced in the Bedford Road, Castle, G Live, Millbrook, Tunsgate and York Road car parks and was a significant reduction in the hourly rate, from £1.30 to £1 an hour, with a minimum stay of three hours.

“The aim was to reduce the hourly rate and encourage longer stays. We hoped this would encourage shoppers back into the town centre after the pandemic.

“We can confirm our car parks are much busier this year. We plan to do more detailed analysis later this year when we have a fuller period of comparable months. We plan to compare car park usage to pre-Covid times, even though there appear to be some long-term changes to behaviour following the pandemic.

“Early analysis of April and May 2022 shows our car parks, as a whole, have seen a growth of 50 per cent in ticket sales compared to the same two months last year. Ticket numbers in total are only 4 per cent below pre-Covid April and May 2019.

“Although people are no longer commuting regularly, the number of visitors coming to Guildford for shopping and leisure is still high. In particular, April this year was the busiest April for car park sales since 2016.”

See also Letter: Car Park Charge Hike executed With Too Little Debate (June 25) and Guildford Car Park Price Rises confirmed (Jan 2022).

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Responses to Council Defends Car Park Charges: Usage Nearly Back To Pre-Pandemic Levels

  1. John Strugnell Reply

    July 3, 2022 at 11:01 pm

    Why cannot the council “experts” get the Onslow and Spectrum Park & Ride services up and running? I suspect a bit of battle between the money men and the service providers.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    July 6, 2022 at 9:49 am

    I either use the park and ride or go elsewhere. GBC are killing the town’s shopping streets.

    After the pandemic I would have thought that GBC should be encouraging as many people as possible to come shopping in Guildford. But GBC is not known for clever, joined-up thinking.

  3. Georgina Grant Reply

    July 6, 2022 at 8:42 pm

    There is not much to enjoy in the way of shops in Guildford now. I visited Petersfield this week and was amazed by the variety of shops there.

    If you don’t want eating and drinking facilities or luxury goods, there is little on offer in Guildford. Such a shame.

    There is no justification for such high car parking charges and the bus services have deteriorated, so I no longer come into town as frequently as I did in the past.

  4. Martin Elliott Reply

    July 8, 2022 at 8:21 am

    If the usage has nearly returned to pre-Covid, what was the real reason for “shopper” car parks and has it worked to achieve that aim?

    Also if usage has returned, why did charges have to increase 40% in April.

    Comparison to other cherry-picked towns isn’t, and never has been, a valid reason for costs. The real reason parking is seen as a “cash cow” is the need to generate income to subsidise Park & Ride and other GBC Budget demands.

  5. Nigel Reply

    July 24, 2023 at 8:11 am

    This is an unfair charging rate when just this weekend I entered Bedford car park at 5:30pm on Saturday 22 July 2023 to go to the cinema. I ended up paying £3.60 for the 5:30pm to 6pm charge and the £1.6 for the evening charge totalling £5.20. This would have been on the previous charge rate £1.2 for the hour to 6pm and £1.60 on the evening totalling £2.80. The council is making £2.40 for nothing and if 1000’s get caught with this they are making £100.000’s extra over a year. This is called profiteering and it should not be allowed

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