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FREE PARKING: Councillors suggest reintroduction to boost trade

FREE PARKING: Councillors suggest reintroduction to boost trade

Image: LDRS

Leeds City Council has been urged to make car parking in the city centre free again after lockdown, in a bid to boost trade.

The local authority scrapped charges for more than three months last year and later offered discounted parking when they were reintroduced during the summer.

NHS staff and frontline social care workers are still entitled to free parking.

But councillors have now suggested that the perk be reinstated for everyone to entice shoppers back to the high street, once the latest period of lockdown ends.

The council said it was keeping the matter “under review” but hinted that financial constraints would make it difficult to do.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Thursday, Conservative councillor for Pudsey, Trish Smith suggested reintroducing the measure to reduce “the strain on city centre businesses”.

She said: “I know we can’t go anywhere at the moment, but when we are free to move around again could we give that some consideration please, if possible?

“We just need try to get the city centre back to where we all need it to be.”

In response, James Rogers, the council’s director of communities, said: “It’s something we’re keeping under review.

“One of the main reasons we introduced it during the first lockdown was to help NHS and social care staff and key workers undertake their duties.

“NHS and social care staff still have free parking.

“There are a number of factors we’d have to consider before reintroducing it for everybody.

“We found last time that we still saw congestion in the city centre even during lockdown. There were cases of people leaving their cars in a space all day long, 24 hours a day.

“We also have significant financial challenges and if we were to adopt free parking that would make those worse for the coming months.”

Senior Labour councillor Peter Gruen said the prospect of free parking was a “good point to raise”, but suggested that private parks should also consider cutting charges to make any scheme more effective.

“Compared to other areas, Leeds city centre parking charges are very high,” he said.

“But they’re also very high in the privately operated car parks, if not higher still than in the local authority car parks.

“I think we need to look at this more roundly, but I do agree.

“There will come a time when business want people back in the city centre and the way to attract us is not through sky high parking charges.”

Words: David Spereall, Local Democracy Reporter

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