Free parking for two hours in Kettering’s town centre backed in poll

Kettering Council's car park charges before new bands were introduced.
Kettering Council's car park charges before new bands were introduced.

Almost 2,000 people have backed a suggestion to introduce free parking for two hours in Kettering town centre car parks.

Kettering Council-run car parks are among the more expensive local authority car parks in the region, with many claiming the charges put some shoppers off visiting the town.

The Kettering Town Centre Partnership, a business group aiming to move town centre plans forward, launched a poll on their Facebook page.

They asked whether two hours of free parking - which currently costs between £1.50 and £2 depending on the car park - would help our town centre.

Ninety-five per cent of the 2,000 respondents, about 1,900, said it would with just 94 voters saying it wouldn’t.

The suggestion of two hours of free parking was put forward by Labour in their alternative Kettering Council budget this year but rejected by the ruling Conservatives.

Labour leader Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said: “I am not surprised that the response was so overwhelming.

“It seems obvious that there is a need to address parking charges.

“I hope the council take note of the response and do something about it.”

In November 2017 the council announced it would freeze charges until 2021 rather than reduce them, introducing some new bands, after a long-awaited parking review.

The council makes a six-figure surplus from its parking operations.

Kettering’s town centre has had an up-and-down 12 months with several big names leaving the High Street including M&S, Burton and New Look.

Cllr Scrimshaw added: “Some big national retailers have left and others may follow.

“Parking charges will not solve our problems but it’s clear that offering two hours’ free parking will bring people into the town.”

Parking charges will be a much-debated issue when the new unitary authority is introduced in the north of the county.

Wellingborough and East Northants councils do not charge for parking with Corby charging a smaller fee than Kettering.

Independent councillor Michael Brown said: “I hugely welcome the efforts of the Kettering Town Centre Partnership who have put the effort into this historic town centre poll of public opinion.

“I also look forward to seeing the results of the ongoing town centre traders poll currently running now, to see if town centre traders also want to see free parking in the town centre paid for by the town centre reserves we already currently have at Kettering Council with no rise in taxes nor cuts in services.

“I plan to work with other councillor colleagues, of all parties and none, to adopt the results of the latter traders survey as the official council position at the next full council meeting.”

The Kettering Town Centre Partnership has been contacted for further comment.

The poll runs for another four days.