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Monday, November 27, 2006

Free Parking in Hungerford

Denise Gaines, (Lib Dem ward councilor for Hungerford) has published a letter in the NWN calling for free parking in Hungerford in the lead up to Christmas; whilst I applaud the suggestion I believe that it would make little difference in increasing trade in Hungerford as she suggests.

Ms Gaines is right, people do shop at out-of-town retail outlets, but not simply for the convenience of free parking but that one is unable to purchase the majority of today’s lifestyle needs; for instance where in Hungerford can one buy men’s jeans or casual clothes, shoes, socks, inexpensive ties, sports goods or clothes, mobile phones, computers and accessories, CD’s and DVD’s (other than the top 20 available in the supermarkets) in fact most of the items one would be shopping for Christmas presents. So the attraction of outlet centre’s is being able to obtain all of these items at one location alternatively, save the parking fee, save the petrol, save the time and buy online like 18 million people in the UK are expected to do this year.

It’s ridiculous that today I was unable to buy a standard car radio aerial, to replace a broken one, from either of the 2 service stations in Hungerford, I could do my weeks food shopping and buy enough wine and beer to throw a party, but try and get a fan belt or any car parts and I’m sorry it’s a trip to Halfords in Newbury, and Oh, while I’m here why not nip to Waitrose or the retail park and do the rest of my shopping.Ironically the bread shop in Hungerford 'Three Cooks' no longer sell bread as it can not compete with Somerfields.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Hungerford and will shop in the high street whenever possible and there’s nothing more I would like than to park my car for free in the high street, walking its entire length and get everything on my shopping list, but this is just not practical. Let’s face it, Hungerford High street consists mostly of Estate agents, Accountants, Antique shops, gift and jewelry shops, charity shops and others providing knick knacks or expensive furniture.

I do not know what’s on Ms Gaines Christmas list but I certainly wouldn’t be able to fulfill mine here. The answer to all this is to ensure that when shop premises become available, West Berks Council to encourage trading for only specific types of retail outlets by offering reduced rates and increased rates for non retail businesses using shop premises. Alternatively have our own retail outlet centre at Charnham Park and leave the high street to fend for itself, not an option I would welcome but with the additional housing we are expected to accommodate in the future, it may become an unwanted necessity.


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