Parking in Blackpool should be completely overhauled in a bid to attract more residents into the town centre, it was claimed today.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard has drawn up new plans featuring a catalogue of changes he says the council should consider to boost car parking in the resort.
His ideas include offering free parking after 3pm and providing more pay-on-foot car parks whereby motorists pay on returning to their car.
And council bosses have today welcomed the ideas.
Mr Maynard said: “Parking is one of the key foundations to reviving the town centre, and I want to see a council commitment to thinking more creatively about this vital issue.”
The council says it has already introduced a number of successful measures including free parking in the run up to Christmas.
But the MP said: “Rochdale and Blackburn run a ‘Free from Three’ scheme which offers free town centre parking from 3pm, for example, which I think could benefit Blackpool. I understand a significant barrier to the pay on exit model is the capital investment required to introduce it.
“My recommendation is an application to the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund.
“I also know not everyone feels safe in the evening in the town centre. One idea would be for Blackpool to seek a Purple Flag which is a bit like the Blue Flags we have for beaches, but emphasises accessibility and public safety.”
Mr Maynard added: “Council attitudes remain constrained, it seems, by the view that parking is first and foremost a revenue stream.
“Nonetheless, I was encouraged by the recent decision to offer free parking on Small Business Saturday, which seemed a step in the right direction. “
Coun John Jones, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Mr Maynard is very welcome to make me aware of his suggestions and meet with me to have a sensible discussion about them.
“Had he consulted with me, Mr Maynard would be aware we have looked into achieving Purple flag status and this is something we will be considering in the future.
“Every year we take difficult decisions on the best measures to help the local economy when setting our budget, a process which is ever more difficult in the face of drastic central Government cuts which inhibit our ability to invest. “
Coun Jones said the council had implemented free parking at different times throughout the year.
Business leaders add their voice to the debate
Andrew Clayton of Clayton’s Jewellers on Cookson Street said: “Free after three would be better than nothing but I would like to see the council introduce two hours free parking and then you pay after that.”
Michelle Johnson, manager of Blueberries clothes shop on Topping Street, said: “I would welcome free parking after 3pm, but why not also have free parking on Sundays to push Sunday trading?”