Is free parking good for Fleet?

Hart District Council have been reviewing parking charges and are proposing to introduce free 30 minute parking in Fleet which is being discussed at the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting on 17th December.

The Fleet Business Improvement District undertook two research projects to get views from businesses, people who work in the town and shoppers / visitors to the town to understand whether free parking would be a good thing for Fleet.

While there is overwhelming support for free parking, there are significant concerns about the current proposals which would introduce a new 3 hour parking charge, increase fees for long stay parking and provide free parking for 30 minutes. The Fleet Business Improvement District are concerned about Hart District Council’s review of car parking charges and, based on the feedback received, we are encouraging the Council to re-think its proposals and undertake a broader review of parking to ensure that any solutions encourage people to spend longer in the town, make parking easy and do not pass the costs onto businesses.

The Business Improvement District is making this recommendation for four reasons:

  1. While there is overwhelming support for free parking and people have told us this would attract more people to the town, 30 minute free parking would encourage more people to pop into the town to undertake short errands. This could damage businesses where people typically spend longer than 30 minutes such as hairdressers, supermarkets, clothes shops and restaurants. Cafes and coffee shops may also find that people don’t stop to buy a drink as people are rushing back to their cars before their free parking ends.
  2. These proposals would also transfer the cost of this scheme onto people who stay longer in the town and who work in the town. This is an unfair burden on businesses, who are already struggling to recruit staff and we are concerned that this could deter businesses from setting up in the town, something which is essential if Fleet is to adapt to the changing nature of the High Street.
  3. A review the parking machines is required as a matter of urgency. We have had many reports that the parking fee structure, particular from daytime to evening, is confusing, the machines are difficulty to use, particularly by the elderly or people visiting for the first time and that the machines frequently malfunction. We would like Hart District Council to consider replacing them with machines that are easy to use and accessible by all and do not discourage people from parking in the town.
  4. People have also told us that they are concerned about getting parking fines if they overstay for a short time, for example if they are stuck in a queue. We would also want assurances that the introduction of 30 minute free parking would not be used as a way to generate additional income through parking fines.

Fleet Business Improvement District has requested data to undertake our own analysis and have offered to work with the council and other interested parties to develop an alternative scheme which would be more beneficial, such as providing free parking for longer periods during quieter times, such as weekday afternoons, evenings or Sundays, all of which would encourage people into the town and, more importantly, enable them to stay longer.