More free parking set to be introduced in Kettering

Kettering Council hopes the move will increase town centre footfall

By Sam Wildman
Monday, 17th February 2020, 6:00 am

Up to a dozen extra hours of free parking per week could be introduced in Kettering's council-owned car parks in a bid to attract shoppers.

The Conservative-run authority looks set to launch a pilot scheme which will make parking in their 650 spaces free at certain times.

On Wednesday (February 19) their ruling executive committee will discuss three options - leaving charges as they are, making parking free on Saturdays or free parking after 3pm from Monday to Thursday.

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For years shoppers have taken to social media to complain about the council's current tariffs, with parking free at Rushden Lakes and Wellingborough and generally cheaper in Corby.

Kettering Council's regeneration portfolio holder Cllr Mark Dearing said he doesn't get a lot of complaints about parking and results from a recent survey said it wasn't shoppers' biggest gripe, but that the council committed to looking at charges and that he will be backing the free after 3pm option.

He said: "There is a dead period between mid-afternoon and the evening and this is the time we want to encourage people to come into Kettering."

Under the pilot scheme any new charges decided on would be brought in for one year with an interim report after nine months. Footfall data from new counters being implemented next month will be used to assist the report.

The council's Municipal Office car park in London Road.

The cost of the scheme will be funded by the council's reserves. The free on Saturdays option will cost the council £125,000 in 2020/21 with nine extra free hours per week. The free after 3pm option would cost the council £90,000 with 12 extra free hours.

Labour's opposition leader Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said he gave the council "marks for effort" but that he would be putting forward another option - two hours of free parking every day.

He said: "I think it's absolutely wonderful that they are, at last, taking up the issue of car parking charges.

"It genuinely is great that they seem to be realising that they need to do something."

A report set to be discussed by councillors details the merits and flaws of the options available.

Officers say the Saturday free parking option would reach a wider demographic but could see people parking in Kettering and getting the train to other shopping centres.

They say the free after 3pm option could encourage greater footfall in the quiet period and could bring families in post-school but could simply see those going shopping start coming later instead to park for free.

Davina Parkhouse, owner of The Bean Hive in High Street, thinks most traders would back the free on Saturdays option.

She said: "It would make far more difference to trade.

"If parking was free from 3pm I feel that a lot of people would delay already planned trips rather than plan additional trips and the improvement in trade would be more negligible.

"Since we opened parking costs are constantly cited as the reason people don’t come more or stay longer."