The suggestion by the Conservative group on Bradford Council that the city centre should have free, on and off street, car parking is a welcome one.
Indeed, it is something the Telegraph & Argus has called for over many years, when both Conservatives and Labour have had control of the Council, because we believe a struggling retail centre needs to remove every obstacle to attracting would-be shoppers. We even called for the Westfield site to be converted to temporary free car parking before it became an “urban garden” on the basis that it could at least provide some benefit for those retailers battling for survival during the long wait for our new shopping centre to be built.
Free parking would, undoubtedly, give a shot in the arm for businesses as well as providing a very welcome boost for loyal shoppers.
In the extremely difficult financial climate facing local authorities at the moment, it is to some extent understandable that the Council has failed to act on this, particularly when parking income and revenue from penalty tickets represent a not insignificant sum in themselves.
The Conservatives have not, as yet, come up with a viable proposal as to where the £500,000 such a scheme would cost could actually come. But it is something that should be given full consideration by all parties when they set the budget this week. Our city centre traders need every bit of support they can get at the moment.
There is every prospect of significant regeneration getting under way in the city this year, with the Westfield scheme scheduled to begin at last and Regional Growth Fund cash becoming available. But until then, at least, allowing free parking would give an immediate boost to those traders who are, in some cases, barely keeping their heads above water and it might even kick-start a minor resurgence in city centre shopping in anticipation of future bounties.