Parking charges are being scrapped for shoppers at an indoor market in the Black Country.
They will be able to park for free at Brierley Hill’s Concord Market, which has a 70-space car park behind the indoor market, off High Street. The car park has previously been pay and display.
Market owner, Shane Birch-Bastock, says he hopes the free car parking trial will be a boost for the town’s economy.
He said: “Our car park is only a small one but if we don’t do something, then who will? Putting up car parking charges is not the answer. We need to try to make the town busier and bring more shoppers in.”
Mr Birch-Bastock said he started charging for car parking in about 2004 and charged people £1 to park their cars, but customers using his market could get the money refunded when they bought goods from the market.
He said: “We know there might be some revenue lost from this move but we’re hoping this will be off-set by the increase in business. It is for any shoppers to park there but if it gets abused we’ll just stop it. We’re thinking of people just coming for an hour or two while they do their shopping and then going again. If it’s ram-packed every day after two weeks then we can’t continue. But if every other car-park in the town decided to do the same, how brilliant that would be. It would also take the pressure off mine.”
Only weeks ago it was revealed that Brierley Hill had one of the worst-performing retails scenes of any small town in the country.
A study had shown that 29.6 per cent of the town’s shops were empty and the revelation prompted calls from residents for free car parking and lower shop rents to help retailers.
Mr Birch-Bastock, who is also chairman of the Brierley Hill Traders’ Association, said his car-park, which is between Venture Way and Mill Street, was the last in the town to start charging for parking and it was a decision he made reluctantly.
He said: “We felt we had to do it then because the free parking was being abused by traders and employees every day. The car park was full by 9am every morning.
“So, we’ve made this trial of free car parking for customers only and we haven’t decided how long to run it for yet. We’re trying to find solutions to the parking problems and increasing parking charges is not the answer.”