Bridgwater Chamber responds to the issue raised by BBC Somerset Radio regarding the recent decision to scrap free parking on the Saturdays leading up to Christmas . The radio feature has shed light on the challenges faced by local businesses, prompting the Chamber to advocate for a reconsideration of parking policies and a renewed focus on supporting the town centre.
Earlier this year, the Bridgwater Chamber conducted a survey among town centre businesses, revealing startling statistics about Somerset Councils decision to increase parking charges. According to the survey, 43% believed that past parking charge hikes had adversely impacted their business and 56% felt that the latest increase in parking charges would further negatively affect their business. Even more alarming, a staggering 87.5% of respondents felt that the rise in parking charges would adversely impact the town centre as a whole.
The removal of free parking on Saturdays in the lead-up to Christmas has exacerbated concerns among local businesses, particularly in the context of a challenging retail environment where high streets face intense competition from online shopping and out-of-town retail centres.
Bridgwater Chamber Manager Diogo Rodrigues conveyed his disappointment, stating, “The decision by Somerset Council to abandon the longstanding tradition of free parking on Saturdays during the festive season is disheartening for our town centre businesses. This, coupled with the recent increase in parking charges, places our local businesses in an even more precarious position.”
The Bridgwater Chamber acknowledges the commendable initiative by Wellington Town Council, which decided to implement free parking on Saturdays leading up to Christmas and cover the associated costs. This proactive step to support local businesses is seen as a positive example of community backing.
With local high streets facing an uphill battle, Bridgwater Chamber urges Somerset Council to reconsider its parking strategy. The Chamber also calls upon Bridgwater Town Council to consider adopting a supportive approach akin to Wellington Town Council by reinstating free parking on Saturdays in the run-up to Christmas in 2024.
Bridgwater Chamber remains committed to advocating for the prosperity of local businesses and the vibrancy of our town centre. Collaborative efforts between councils and businesses are paramount to ensuring the sustained vitality of Bridgwater’s community.