A leading British business figures says he is backing the campaign for more free parking in Harrogate because the town "is not immune from the pressures on the high street
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive officer of the British Independent Retailers Association said the nearly 50 independent business behind a petition for three hours free parking in Harrogate town centre had the right idea.
Who is behind Harrogate's free parking petition + what do they want?
So far more than 1,500 people have signed the petition calling for 'Free 3 Hour Parking in Harrogate' at change.org in a campaign led by well-known Harrogate independent businesses including Ogden of Harrogate, G23 and Porters, Whites of Harrogate, Walker Galleries,Morgan Clare, William Woods Interior Design, Bijouled, Graveleys of Harrogate, Helen James Flowers, Bang & Olufsen, Arkrights Hardware, Imagined Things and more.
What BIRA chief executive says about Harrogate
Mr Goodcare, who formerly lived in Harrogate, said a new coordinated plan to increase footfall for Harrogate shops was now vital.
He said: "Many of the Harrogate retailers fighting for free parking are members of Bira and we are supporting this important local campaign.
"We all know that the High Street in suffering throughout the UK with shopping habits changing for good due the development of on-line shopping.
"However, traditional retail can compete with the right support to ‘level the playing field’. Price is not the only reason for purchasing on-line.
"It is as much to do with the convenience of the purchase and the delivery of that product. I have read some to the comments by those opposing the idea and would say the following:
"I understand Harrogate Borough Council's responsibilities in this respect.
I would be interested to know if they have any evidence that car parking occupancy is now lower in Harrogate?
How Harrogate can survive competition from internet
"Given the rise of internet shopping, click and collect and home deliveries, I believe that the thousands of delivery vans on the roads every day are hurting the environment much more.
"There was a comment about the internet doing more damage to retail that expensive parking
"Yes, we all accept that the way people shop has changed.
"However, I have seen recent research stating that people search on-line but want to buy in shops.
"The biggest challenge facing retail is matching the convenience of internet shopping and removing the existing barriers.
"For the retailers this may mean changing opening hours, developing better websites, etc.
"Retailers want to encourage click and collect, but they need other ‘barriers’ removing, and car parking (availability and cost) is a problem for shoppers and retailer.
Harrogate : Transport and shopping
"There was mention of the impact on buses and I applaud the free buses initiative in Harrogate.
"To increase the all important footfall, there needs to be co-ordinated approach and public transport must be part of the overall plan.
"However, not everyone will use buses, scheduling is not always ideal and it does not remove the barrier of parking when the bus is not an option.
Harrogate : Parking and shopping
"Last September, just after starting my role as CEO for Bira, I attended a meeting chaired by the chief executive of the council.
"Also in attendance were other businesses and organisations involved with promoting Harrogate.
"This was a good and informative meeting and it is clear that Harrogate is doing a lot to attract visitors – often based on events.
"Not all of the events necessarily help the independent retailers due to road closures, limited access etc but, in general, we would still support the ideas.
"Parking was mentioned at this meeting but any debate quickly suppressed on the grounds it is not in the council’s remit.
"That may be true, but it did show a lack of appreciation of the concerns of local businesses.
Harrogate is not immune from problems
"At the meeting it was clear that Harrogate, despite its strong demographics and local wealth, was not immune from the pressures on the high street with an increased number of empty properties.
"Implementing a more consumer-friendly approach to parking would a sensible option alongside their other ambitions to improve Harrogate as a destination.
"Without retailers, and especially independent retail, Harrogate will lose some of its appeal. I was lucky enough to live in Harrogate for 16 years and I know that diversity of the retail experience is part of the reason to visit.
Free parking works elsewhere
"I now live near Leamington Spa – a very similar town to Harrogate.
"Interestingly, in response to calls to support the high streets, Leamington has just introduced free parking initiatives and footfall is increasing.
"Traditional retailers need people. More importantly, towns need people to create the atmosphere and vibrancy – key elements in making any visit for any reason far more enjoyable."