£6m car park running on ‘empty’

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Council chiefs have been forced to slash charges at a multi-million pound car park – because not enough drivers are using it.

The Talbot Road multi-storey reopened last November after a £6m refit.

But critics have said the car park looks closed, and that charging £6.50 for up tofour hours’ parking 
is putting drivers 

Council bosses today admitted it “has not been as well used as we would like” and have agreed to slash the fees from between 50p and £2, with the cost of parking for up to four hours hacked from £6.50 to £4.50.

Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “There’s no getting away from the fact the newly refurbished Talbot Road car park has not been as well used as we would like.

“There have been a number of reasons for that including the fact it opened at one of the quieter times of the year in terms of parking numbers and we had some teething problems with weather damage.

“It’s unfortunate because this is a fantastic, secure facility which is in an ideal central location within the town centre.

“Nevertheless I have no doubt that, given the quality of the job that has been done, once the tourism season begins and once the new Talbot Gateway Central Business District opens, usage will increase.

“What we have to do to make that happen is promote and signpost the car park more effectively and offer competitive pricing.

“For that reason we’ve brought the car parking tarriffs into line with other car parks and will be offering further promotions on short stay parking very soon.”

The decision comes as Gazette reader John Garnham, of Cherry Tree Road, Marton, carried out his own survey on what should have been a busy Friday.

Mid-afternoon on Friday March 7, he found just three cars.

Mr Garnham said: “A random survey showed a staggering figure of just three vehicles using the regenerated Talbot Road Car Park, an extremely low figure for a five-storey, ten- level, car park with all levels open and lit.

“Previously I have highlighted the fact the car park looks closed and there was not enough signage.

“There is now an entrance sign, and a white arrow on the road, which is at least is a small step in the right direction but people are still left wondering if the car park is actually open.

“It is quite unbelievable that those in charge of finances or the car parks do not appear to have really woken up to just how poor the income stream must be.

“I also checked out the car park above Wilkinson’s immediately opposite, operated by Apcoa, which has tariffs of around 50 per cent cheaper and it was really busy.”

Traders in the area have also called for cheaper parking.

Andrew Clayton, of Clayton’s Jewellers on Cookson Street, said:”I don’t think many people are using it because I have never seen more than one car at a time trying to get in, whereas you go to Preston and you have to queue for their main car parks.

“I just think the charges are too expensive.

“There is no enticement to come into Blackpool.”

Michelle Johnson, manager of Blueberries clothing store on Topping Street, said: “The parking in Blackpool town centre is a nightmare because of the price.

“They also need to advertise that Talbot Road multi-storey is open.

“It doesn’t help that when you drive up to entrance you have to wait for the roller shutter to open, so it just looks closed.”

The decision to remodel the Talbot Road multi-storey car park was taken by the Conservatives when they were in power.

But the group’s current leader Coun Tony Williams denied they were the ones who had got it wrong.

He said: “We inherited the whole Gateway project but by then the economy had changed.

“Things were being scaled back and so we decided to remodel the car park rather than demolish it and rebuild, as had originally been proposed.

“But we were out of power by the time details such as the entrance, the fascia and the surface of the roads around were decided, and the criticism at the moment is that people can’t get in it.

“If people want to complain about the whole scheme then it is a shared fault.”