Sunday 22 January 2012

How to undermine market towns

Recently there has been a lot of news coverage of the collapse of big-name brands in the high streets, but our market towns have been fighting for their lives for a lot longer.

In Carmarthenshire, the county council has been doing its bit to drive more nails in the coffins of our small towns and independent retailers with its car parking charges.

Not many years ago, car parks in most of the county's smaller towns were free, but seeing an opportunity to make money, charges were introduced, and these have been rising at well above inflation ever since. If anything, the council intends to escalate matters, and has published what it calls proposals to rack up charges year-on-year for the next three years, with the price of a ticket for an hour rising from 40p in 2011 to 70p in 2014.

Car parking at supermarkets is, of course, free. So what we have is an active disincentive for people to shop locally. Want to nip into town to buy a loaf of bread and some milk? Add 50p to your bill if you park in a council car park.

In Newcastle Emlyn, which has one fairly large car park and two smaller ones, it turns out that the county council last year made a profit of around £55,000 from parking, although in true Carmarthenshire style, the numbers have been subject to spin, with £27,000 of profit being eaten up by fictional improvement and maintenance work. The probable truth is that most of the £27,000 was in fact spent on a new bus shelter which has nothing whatever to do with the car parks.

The reason we know this is because the Town Council was forced into making a Freedom of Information request to the County Council to obtain information which, you would think, County Hall would provide its community councils with anyway.

In common with the public, local councillors have noticed that while charges have gone up and up, repair and maintenance of the car parks have gone in the opposite direction, although the county council has now patched up some of the largest potholes and repainted the parking bays, which had become also invisible to the naked eye.

Meanwhile, it seems that all is not well in Carmarthen's flagship Tesco Extra store, which is under-trading significantly. Not that things are much better at Morrison's where the county council's policy of encouraging out-of-town retail development has resulted in the mushrooming of a large and growing retail park off the A40. According to a consumer survey, elderly shoppers are deterred from going to Morrisons because of the large roundabouts and multi-lane approaches to them.

With thanks to the Tivyside Advertiser for a timely nudge.


Anonymous said...

you know what this reminds me of? pfi company charging money in case it needs repairing...

a good quality car park should last at least 10 years, a top quality surface 20 years plus.

if the council are charging 3 times of what it should to cover a resurface and/or redistribute to another carpark in the same town.. oh hang on, if no work needs to be done, they redistribute your money onto another town.. and by the time your town needs a repair, money from another town comes back to you...eventually.

a low quality thin tarmac surface is no good as that probably will last less than five years. a thicker tarmac will be better to push it up to ten years and get value for money.

a top quality car park for a low number of users is not efficient from the councils view, so that should last 20 years so in the overall picture it would be efficient.

basic rules are the longer a car stays in a carpark, the less likelyhood of wear and tear.
the more cars toing and froing, the wear and tear increases. but with a top quality surface, it won't have that much damage but will degrade eventually. have a cheap carpark and it will deteriorate prematurely.

the trouble with a council is if they spend 100k, they want the return asap. if someone actually analyzed things, it will come to no suprise that an all day ticket will cost less than people think, simply because the car is static, so in theory the council are making money out of very little. the only 'waer and tear' is enetering and leaving. if a pasrking soace adjacent has ten cars a day coming and going, the enterance surface and exit surface gets worn more quicker, which is common sense. if the surface is bad quality, it will wear down quick. if it's good quality, it will last. common sense again.. if the council laid 7mm tarmac, that is no good. if they laid 10mm that would be better but that will depend if it was laid good. 12mm is more expensive but will last.

if the council had their way, they just lay the old type of carpark of chippings, cheap and cherrful. bad for the cars and bad for the feet. and no way can a disabled driver endure a chipping surface.

cheap asphalt will degrade.

then again, i wonder if the council pays rates on its carparks.. if they do, who pays the bill? mr and mrs motorists.

if a carpark is 50p an hour, and someone who is a carer using it 4 times a day doing errand will run up a tenner a week for some poor sob who pays this tenner from their allowance or someone's carers allowance.

if the council's rates bill is added onto the base rate, dpending on how much the rates value is, as it costs money to lay the carpark in the first place plus land aquirement, for afair sized carpark, it would be reasonable for a 30p charge whether short term or all day- none of this pound a day nonsense. (anon2)

it would be unfortunate if someone was doing errands and would be quite had to balance the fairness.

a supermarket's free carpark is not free as such, the shopper pays for it via the company profits, whether someone goes to tesco whether to just buy a pint of milk or doing a £50 shop, a tiny proportion of that shop goes towards paying for the carpark. and it sounds daft to me how asda were charging £2 and at one time, the carpark charge was redeemed at the checkout. i'm not sure if they do that anymore.

so, in theory. if a supermarket car park costs 100k, and they get that 100k back a lot sooner via the shoppers, that 100k is returned to them faster than a 100k council carpark will take..and any money on top of that after is general profit. and that is one of the problems towns are up against, time. how can a level playing field be achieved? it can't..

Anonymous said...

meryl gravell says the charges are considered to be fai and competative. we are confident they would not have an adverse effect on town centre trading.

of couse a level playing field cannot be achieved due to the natures of the circumstances.

a free carpark by a supermarket is not free as such as it gets paid for via profits.. say it cost 100k, that money will be returned to the supermarket via it's profit. and do not be suprised if a supermarket does not relay that surface after 10 years.. that 100k will be paid back to the store a lot faster than if a council built a carpark for the same amount.

level field? i don't think so. a supermarket is tructured to sell the public discounted food, even though they have muscled in what the town shops are selling, and the twon shops cannot get the same discounts that the supermarket can.

so where is this imaginary playing field? (anon2)

Anonymous said...

a market town does not have the same rules apply - necastle emlyn, llandeilo, ammanford, llandovery.

they physically take away trade by enticing people to go to the nearest supermarket town. even tesco in ammanford takes away people from the town and that is only a 5 minute walk away never mind a 5 miles drive.

so how does gravell come up with the conclusion it won't harm the towns by introducing charges. it actually makes things worse, it doesn't omprove the situation at all.

and if anything, someone may not bother use a council carpark and use a free one, therefore depriving the council a bit of income. so where is the sense in that?

at the end of the day, people do like free parking no doubt.
soon as it becomes council involved, money is mentioned.

ammanford alays had free parking with it's two large carparks, co-op and finefare. the finefare one was rough but it was free and that's where the friday market was held. or should i say somerfield carpark.

the original somerfield store closed down but eventually took over kwiksave, then subsequently that closed down too.
the somerfield carpark was relaid around 1996-97 when tesco opened, along with another carpark across the road in what was formerly the builders merchants yard which had been derelict for years. and the carpark behind the miner's welfare.

the politics of the co-op carpark is vague as it is not sure who owns the land as it has been mentioned that another carpark behind quay street belongs to the dynevor estate. and it has been mentioned whether true or not is part of the condition of lease is that it shall not be for business use. so isn't a pay and display a business?

the the council started charging.

what would not be seen as to be fair is if a council tax payer should be charged to amke a contribution towards a carpark when that person does not even have a car or is a pensioner.

somerfield more or less provided a carpark, even if it was only meant for somerfield shoppers use, it was known as the town carpark. i'm not sure who laid the tarmac as before it was laid was basically a tip. cosntructed with allsorts of materials but i remember coal, and when driving through, it was often encounterd by sevral large dips that shook the car, and pooled with water when it rained so the friday markey cause a fuss.

the co-op was free as well. there was another free car park across the road but that got taken over for the wikinsons build where the other seperate unit got built for them, which is now barnados shop. a very expensive one too.

i don't think a council should charge for parking on the road because the road has already been paid for through council tax or vehicle duty, and as cars are already travelling on that road, what extra wear and tear is being caused? same as city centre onroad parking schemes.

if in the past, the old tesco in llanelli town centre was free and co-existing with the council pay and displays. when tesco moved to trostre, was this the case at the time? the new trostre complex wasn;t built until 2006, and that's when things started to change. so it wasn't tesco for once that caused the glut in the town centre because the tesco extra already existed. (anon2)

Anonymous said...

i don't think llanelli murray street storey. it looks the same now as it did in 1974. how many times over has that building been paid for?

if a carpark actually gets maintained and relaid, then i would say it maybe worth it.
the first thing the council would do is set a ticket price to match the lifespan of the carpark and capacity. which is what they nust have done as that is the obvious formula to use.

if a council built a new carpark for 200k today with a capacity of 100, it will cost 50 pence a day physically for it'll take 13 years to pay for it, which sounds reasonable, as life expectancy should be ten to twenty years.

but the twist in this is that it has to be assumed that that the 100cars are there all day everyday for the week - stationary. there is no wear and tear so in theory, the surface should last 20 years. as people are erratic, and most times in the early week, they would be half full as it's usually quiet. so at a half capacity, it will take 26 years to get the money back.

with a quality surface, it doesn't seem to be so relevant how many times it gets driven on. build a poor surface and it'll get clobbered.

if cars are coming in parking for an hour, throughout the day it is anyone's guess, so the carpark capacity could be filled but at different times. if the carpark was not being used at all, then they'd have one big problem.

100 car carpark is quite a lot for towns such as llandeilo etc, as if it was 20 per row and that would be 50 metres wide by 40. cut it in half and it'll still cost 50p but takes double the time to pay it back, which could be just over the life expectancy - so they may break even. that's the differnce between a small town and a larger town, the numbers to make up a capacity. it seems like it could cost more money for a small town and cheaper in a large town, and more efficient. but that may not be the case if a land price is more expensive in a larger town, or viceversa in some situations.

if there was an answer, i'd give it. either one carpark subsidises another or it doesn't.
i find no reason why they would charge 70p or a pound for 2hours. or even worse, a pound for one hour. but then again, there maybe a rates charge added on top of the base rate, so that may have to be looked at

Anonymous said...

so, how do we help small towns protect themselves? llandeilo for example is awkward with it's main street.especially with it's yellow lines. all towns didn't have them at one time. it was suggested if parking was allowed on one side only but that wasn't an answer. roads were built before the car booms occured but that's another story.

sounds like it would take a brave person to operate a pfi carpark.

how would it work if a carpark was built in say newcastle emlyn or llandeilo just to stop people from going to tesco or wherever? people were already doing that

Anonymous said...

somerfield in llandovery has been there for years. then again, i don't think i've heard much said against them before and only more recently it seems to have come out more. occasionally it was a murmur when the council put up the charges but went quiet.. whether the new charges reactions are due to the recession or just something to have a go at the council at, i'm not sure. maybe people have finally woken? i'm not sure if the people who are arguing actually shop at somerfield but the chances are pretty high. and combine that with the pantycelyn situation, it's easy for feelings to run high. it can't be a case of somerfield shutting down shops cos they've both co-existed for years, and to me it's a case of pay&display versus free parking due to the council's bolls ups. if people have had enough, i would suggest a probe into parking charges. then again that would cost time and money which, but if it must be done, so be it, and it'll confirm if it is a money making exercise or not, as some of the public have been suspicious about this for quite a while. (anon2)