Wiltshire Publications

Town’s one-hour free parking agreement extended

 WESTBURY Town Council will continue to provide one hour of free parking in the High Street, Warminster Road and Westfield House car parks in Westbury. 

Councillors voted to approve the proposal at a meeting of the full council on Monday 4th September, saying it is an incentive for people to shop locally. The cost of this will be £31,000 and the decision will be reviewed once again next year.

The town council used to offer two hours of free parking in the town but this was reduced to one hour in 2022, to reduce town council spending on car parks after Wiltshire Council increased their charges.

At the recent full town council meeting, councillors entered into a heated discussion about whether they should continue to provide one hour of free parking in the town, with some arguing that the provision encourages economic growth for town centre businesses, while others saying that this should not be the initiative of a council which wants to prioritise the environment.

‘Supporting car use’

 Cllr Duncan Hamilton-Sheen said, “As a council, we’ve said we want clean air and yet this proposal means we are willing to use taxpayers’ money to support the use of cars in the town centre. When I visit Trowbridge or Frome, I don’t expect local people to pay for my parking – I pay it myself.

“I know I will be told that we need to look after our High Street, but since we approved the one-hour free parking last year, the post office at McColl’s left, which suggests that the move made no difference whatsoever. The Westbury Market was also abandoned due to reduced footfall, which again suggests that the one-hour of free parking is not enough to keep businesses going.”

Incentive to shop locally

Cllr Gordon King said, “It is right and proper that councils should incentivise people to use facilities and that those facilities should be given the chance to grow and thrive at all times. This town has large communities in and around it, but suffers from people going to other towns to shop, so it needs every incentive to persuade people that shopping locally is better than getting in their cars and shopping elsewhere.

“Most business leaders in Westbury agree that the loss of one hour of free parking was detrimental to the overall car parking strategy in the town. I didn’t agree last year that we should go down to one hour – I think it was a big mistake and I actually think we should have reinstated the full two hours.”

Cllr Matthew Dean said that the move last year to cut the car parking provision was “sensible” and added, “I do genuinely think that some older people that use some of the shops in the town centre would be significantly disadvantaged if we didn’t provide at least one hour of free parking.”

Cllr Jane Russ said, “Until we are in a situation where we offer people an alternative transport system, we have to accept that people will want to drive. I found it difficult to say yes to one-hour last year as I would prefer there not to be free parking, but I appreciate what it adds to the shopping experience in the town centre.”

Westbury Mayor, cllr Mike Sutton summarised, “There is a conversation to be had about whether we should be subsidising car parking when we have climate change issues, but I am conscious that it brings people into the town and it shows that we, as a town council, are supportive of local businesses.

“I would be more willing in the future to use the £31,000 for a free electric bus service, but we are not there yet, so this works in the interim.”