THE thumbs-down by some traders in South Shields to the parking refund scheme was mirrored by Gazette readers on our website.
Yesterday, we reported how – 12 months after it was first announced by council chiefs – some businesses said the idea had made little impact on both them and customers.
The initiative, whereby motorists would be able to claim back the cost of their parking ticket by spending an agreed amount at any store participating in the scheme, was introduced in a bid to boost retail fortunes in the town centre.
But retailers such as Phil Goodfellow, who co-owns the Northern Threads and Edit menswear stores, labelled it a “complete flop”, while staff at Homefair Blinds said that only one customer had used the scheme this year.
There are 20 businesses signed up to the scheme and council chiefs have confirmed that, despite criticism in some quarters, it will continue.
However, readers leaving comments on our website – www.shieldsgazette.com – were not impressed with it, as fresh calls for free parking outright were made.
Steampunk wrote: “Free parking would benefit everyone involved – shopper, worker and visitor.
“Might increase footfall to the last remaining shops in the town and show outside retailers that South Shields has a chance to work again like it did in the 80s, if given a chance.” Geoff57 posted: “Everybody knows what is needed in South Shields ‘FREE PARKING’ and an end to the stupid road changes and traffic lights that only put off car owners.”
Jarra Lad said: “Are the council really this clueless that they don’t understand that people won’t come if you make it difficult or slightly complicated?”
And Banished added: “Basically, the scheme is a flop, but we will continue anyway.
“Says it all really.”
Mr Goodfellow told the Gazette: “This redemption scheme was just too obscure, too difficult to operate.
“My solution would be free parking at certain times or on certain days like Bank Holiday Sundays, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
“We need something that would entice people into the town and stop them heading off to the MetroCentre or Newcastle instead.”
But a council spokeswoman insisted: “The parking redemption scheme, which came into force last winter, gives traders and customers the opportunity to benefit from free parking.
“The scheme was introduced to provide retailers with a tool to encourage shoppers to the town centre while the wider regeneration plans are underway.
“The scheme will stay in place as an incentive, as a number of traders have found the scheme to be popular with their customers.”