Anwyl homes - Janet Clowes, Conservative group leader cheshire east council 2019

A bid to scrap car park charges in Cheshire East towns like Nantwich and Crewe over Christmas has been brought forward by the council’s Conservative group, writes Ethan Davies.

Conservative leader Cllr Janet Clowes (pictured) has proposed a motion for this week’s full CEC council meeting, which has been seconded by deputy leader Cllr Stewart Gardiner.

It resolves CEC to: “Support the cessation of car park charges on all Cheshire East Council-owned car parks that directly serve the borough’s towns, market towns, and principal service centres for the period.”

Currently, CEC designates Crewe and Macclesfield as “principal service centres”.

The notice of motion text adds: “This action will provide the borough’s town centre traders with an essential and welcome boost once the current lockdown ends, while also encouraging residents to ‘shop local’.

“Too many Cheshire East businesses are struggling to weather the Covid storm and if they fail, the potential associated loss of business rates, redundancies and rising demand (and costs) for Council services must be an important consideration for this Council, at what is normally the busiest time of year for town centre traders.”

Conservative members have calculated the cost of the plan at £385,000.

This is the amount of income parking generates “over a four week period” with the proposal having an end date of January 17, 2021.

To mitigate the loss, the group has added conditions to the cessation, suggesting a “free after 3pm” scheme from Monday to Saturday, such as in place in Trafford, Greater Manchester.

The proposal is a formalised version of an idea suggested at CEC’s December cabinet meeting, which was rejected by the ruling Labour-Independent coalition.

At the time, Independent deputy leader Cllr Craig Browne said despite a large footfall decrease nationally, the borough’s towns were all seeing better-than-average amounts of traffic.

The Alderley Edge representative also pointed out that Sandbach saw a 14% drop, despite the fact it has free parking already — arguing ‘it does seem from this [data] that parking charges are not the principal determinant to our town centres’’ recovery.

Cllr Stewart Gardiner replied, saying the move was more about a “projection” that the council was encouraging residents to shop locally.

CEC allows town and parish councils to allocate four days a year for their car parks to be free, which are usually near Christmas.

Cheshire East full council will meet online at 11am on Wednesday, December 16.

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