The best Christmas present we could have wished for!
That’s the reaction from traders to the imminent, long-awaited extension of parking time limits on St Annes’ town centre streets.
A switch from the current limit of 60 to 90 minutes is set to come into effect in the next few weeks - just in time for the peak festive shopping season and signalling a key breakthough in a battle for longer limits which has been going on for more than a decade.
It’s more than six months since highways authority Lancashire County Council (LCC) finally relented to pleas from Chamber officials and agreed to extend the limits on the streets closest to St Annes Square for 18 months as an experiment.
The Chamber has been lobbying for more than 10 years for the limits to be doubled to two hours to give drivers time to browse and shop - and officials were shocked when a parking consultation, carried out at a cost of £50,000, initially suggested the limits should stay as they were.
But after a further concerted plea direct to LCC leader Coun John Fillis, the experimental extension to 90 minutes was announced last May.
It’s brilliant news - the ideal boost for the festive season and really the best Christmas present we could have wished for
“It’s brilliant news - the ideal boost for the festive season and really the best Christmas present we could have wished for,” said St Annes Chamber of Trade co-ordinator Arnold Sumner.
“It has been a long time coming since being promised early this year after years of campaigning but it will be well worth the wait.
“We just hope now the experiment is a success and the extension becomes permanant.”
The change currently being drafted by the County Council will cover shopping streets such as Orchard Road, Park Road, Wood Street, Garden Street, The Crescent and St Andrew’s Road South.
At the time the promise of an experimental extension was made, Coun Fillis said in a letter to the Chamber: “Within experimental orders, there is provision to allow alteration of the order within the first six months to take into account any operational difficulties subsequently encountered.
“If at the end of the 18-month period the trial is found to be unsuccessful then a permanent order will not be made and previous existing restrictions will come back into force.”
A County Council spokesman confirmed that the order was expected to come into effect, with signs changed in the affected streets, either later this month or early next.
That would mean it would cover two Christmases, with its initial stages coincide with Fylde Council again making the off-street car parks under their charge free for the three weekends of December.
“The timing makes it a double dose of good news for what is a vital time of year for all traders,” saiid Mr Sumner.
“As we have been saying on behlaf of the traders for years, extending the time limits really is crucial because it makes a vital difference to how much money residents and visitors spend when they come to town.
“An hour is very limiting and means after one or two errands, they are looking at their watches to make sure they don’t risk getting a ticket.
“If they do get a ticket, it makes them think twice about returning and they possibly end up choosing a different shopping destination.
“A longer limit offers them the chance to browse, possibly have a coffee, really enjoy their time in town and then want to return.
“Of course, it would be good if it the limit could be hopefully extended to two hours eventually - but this a very welcome first step and we are looking forward to it coming into effect.”
County Councillor Fabian Craig-Wilson, who represents St Annes South, said: “St. Annes traders have waited a long time for these new on-street parking restrictions to be put in place, so I am very grateful that the scheme is finally coming to fruition.”