HUNDREDS more drivers used Evesham's car parks when parking prices were slashed but the former mayor says cheaper tickets are not answer to the town's problems.
During the closure of the Abbey Bridge in Evesham Wychavon District Council cut prices to 20p for three hours in car parks around the town from September last year to April, in a bid to encourage people to come into the town centre.
And figures released to Cllr Mark Goodge by Wychavon District Council reveal an average of 290 more tickets per day sold during the concession period than normal, or a 16 percent increase in the number of people using the car parks. In December alone 50,995 tickets were sold, an increase on the previous year of 11,057.
But while this appears a success traders still struggled with a drop in customers and sales leading Cllr Goodge to ask if a reduction in car parking prices is really the answer to Evesham's woes.
He said: "There are a number of possible reasons. People who would normally have walked into town, or taken a bus, chose to drive instead.
"People who would have scoured the town centre for free parking were more prepared to pay for it.
"People, particularly those only parking for a short period of time, decided the risk wasn’t worth it for 20p and bought a ticket instead.
"People used the town centre car parks, but didn’t visit the town centre shops.
"It doesn't mean it wasn't helpful because I think it was but I don't think reducing prices long term is the answer."
Cllr Goodge also highlighted the loss in revenue by Wychavon, which he estimated at anything from £100,000 upwards, something he said is unsustainable.
"What’s more important is giving people a reason to come." he added. "And that’s an entirely different problem to solve."
Evesham Market Town Partnership chairman and town and district Cllr Gerry O'Donnell supported this view, saying: "There is little or no correlation between parking charges and footfall in shops.
"When the bridge was closed the car parks were full but the traders we complaining of a drop in trade.
"Free car parks might bring some people into the town but they are not going to be necessarily spending in the shops."
But Phil Merrick, head of community services at Wychavon, said they were pleased with the figures and would continue to discount some parking.
"We’re pleased to see the discounts to parking had a very positive impact on numbers in the town. To get a better understanding of this we’ve continued a new discount in Bewdley and Chapel Street. We will watch with interest to see what impact this has not just on parking figures, but also on footfall to the town and overall impact on car parking income."
Period 2013/14 2012/13
September 43284 43397
October 51955 51943
November 44971 40479
December 50995 39938
January 60342 47760
February 51282 45000
March 57795 43655
April 57527 45831