Views are divided over ‘free’ parking scheme

FOR AND AGAINST... Tony Reynolds, left, and Anthony Kitson.

FOR AND AGAINST... Tony Reynolds, left, and Anthony Kitson.

A RADICAL parking scheme which was introduced to boost trade in South Shields town centre is dividing opinion.

A number of small and larger retailers have signed up for the Parking Redemption Scheme, which came into force last November,

Shoppers are able to park in the town and get the cost of their ticket refunded by a retail outlet – if they spend an agreed amount in store.

The amount shoppers must spend to have access to the “free” parking is set by the individual shopping outlets.

Council bosses hoped the scheme would cut the cost of parking – and also increase spending in the shops.

But opinion is split on how effective the scheme is.

Some were underwhelmed by its impact, while others say they are happily reaping the benefits.

Tony Reynolds, manager at the Argos store, in Russell Street, off King Street, is a believer in the scheme’s potential.

He said: “It’s worked really well so far. The response has been very strong and we’re very pleased at how it’s going.

“We redeem our customers’ parking fee if they spend £50 in store.”

He added: “I’d estimate that we have about one customer a day utilising the offer. That’s good, especially considering the time of the year.

“It’s early days and I’m confident that, once the scheme beds in, the uptake will improve. It’s definitely been a benefit to us already.”

All participating retailers, which include Greenwoods, Clarks, Northern Threads, GHI Computers and Just for Pets, have colour-coded stickers advertising the scheme in their windows.

One trader who was less impressed by the impact was Anthony Kitson, owner of Just 4 Pets in Ocean Road.

He described it as a “waste of time” after only one customer utilised it in almost three months.

Customers who visit the shop need to spend £10 to redeem parking costs.

He added: “In my opinion it has been an utter waste of time. I signed because I hoped it would help trade but it hasn’t.

“I think that since I signed up I have had only one customer who has come in with their parking ticket.

“It just hasn’t been worth it and I really don’t think it is worth continuing with it.

“To be honest, business is really bad in this part of the town at the moment. It’s horrendous and this scheme just hasn’t helped.”

Participating car parks include Charlotte Street, East Street, Mile End Road, North Street, Oyston Street and Salem Street.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The parking refund scheme was introduced shortly before Christmas as one of a range of measures to help shoppers save money and encourage more people into the town centre.

“It’s still early days but the scheme has been welcomed by retailers, and more and more shoppers are taking advantage and getting their parking costs refunded.

“We will continue to promote the scheme to shops and customers alike, and discussions are still ongoing with a number of larger chains who need to consult their regional or national boards.

“With the new parking zones in place since December, it’s only 1p per minute to park in the town centre, with all-day charges at £3 in the western town centre zone and as little as £2 in the area east of the Metro line.

“We are making real progress towards making the South Shields 365 vision a reality, and in the meantime will do everything we can to support retailers and encourage shoppers into the town centre.”

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