Thursday, 6 August 2015

Cwmbran v Newport - the case for free parking

The Prankster has been given this case report regarding Cwmbran by a local resident.

You might be interested to have a look at the case of Cwmbran, about 6 miles north of Newport. It was built as a New Town in the 50's, and the Town Centre is owned by one developer, Prudential.
The bus station is in the town centre, and the railway station is within 400 yards. There are three large supermarkets (Sainsburys, Morrisons and Asda, all on the perimeter of the town centre. The entire town centre is pedestrianised, compact and 90% under cover. You can easily walk from one end of the town centre to the other and remain dry.
Within 200 yards of the centre, there are over 3000 car parking spaces, all of which are free. The closest multi story car park has three floors, the top two dedicated to 4 hours maximum stay, whilst the lower floor allows all day parking. The car park is monitored by CP Plus, but there is no ANPR in use anywhere, and I have never seen a car with a ticket attached.
Admittedly, it can be difficult to find a parking space in the car parks closest to the centre in the peak times, such as the run up to Christmas, but that is not because of long stayers blocking up spaces. It is because the town centre is packed with shoppers. The town is thriving, against all trends in city centres. There is hardly a store front empty, and those that are vacated are quickly re-let. Incidentally, the railway station has it's own car park, and that is free as well, giving no incentive for rail users to use town centre facilities.
Compare this situation with Newport City Centre, it's closest neighbour. For years, the council have milked motorists pockets with parking charges for every parking space in and around the City Centre, Streets around the centre have highly restrictive parking, usually for residential permit holders only. The NCP multi story car park at the North end of the city centre charges £4.00 for 2 hours parking, £8 for 4 hours and £12 for over 6 hours (note they do offer and early bird £5 ticket is you arrive between 0600 and 0900). The council have, in fairness to them, reduced parking charges since late 2013 in their car parks, mainly because of the falling numbers of consumers, which has led to the majority of big name stores leaving the City Centre altogether. Unfortunately, they acted too late.
Parking charges in their primary car park are free for two hours during the day, (introduced last year) then £2 for two to five hours and £4 above four hours. In other car parks, the rate is now £1 for the first three hours, £3.50 for up to five hours and £4.50 for longer.
The problem that Newport City Council now have, is that the major stores have moved to an out of town location, about five minutes drive from the M4, and on the Southern distribution road with access from most Newport. The location offers free parking, and has just had a large car park underneath a new Tesco Extra store added.

In the City Centre itself, the policy of not offering free parking, coupled with high business rates meant that Newport still has a high proportion of vacant stores, although it is not as bad now as the high of 27% vacancy in 2012. However, where major chain stores vacated, they have been replaced by discount stores and other discount retailers. In a RetailVision survey published in June of this year, Newport ranked second only to Sunderland as having the highest proportion of discount stores in the City Centre, with 20% of all stores being classed as discount stores. Such stores do little to provide a solid basis for sustainability. Newport City Council is currently building a new shopping mall, aiming to be completed at the end of this year. They say that it has a full uptake of occupants, but this is on the back of no rates for a couple of years. What happens when those rates go up, only time will tell. Debenhams are likely to be the first store to open, the completion of their section having been prioritised. It will be interesting to see if it's presence generates any more footfall in the centre, considering there are already large Debenhams stores in Cardiff and Cribbs Causeway, Bristol.
Unlike Cwmbran, who boasts three major superstores within 200 yards of the centre, the closest big four supermarket to the centre is over a mile away, There are only a couple of smaller Tesco and Sainsbury convenience style stores, and none have parking adjacent. You have to carry your shopping wherever you are in Newport city centre.
I have lived in Newport for over 25 years, but rarely go into the City Centre these days, unless I need to pay a cheque into the bank, or go for a haircut. When I do, I park in the only car park which offers free parking, and then walk the 400 yards or so to where I need to go, despite there being closer car parks. For all other shopping, I use Cwmbran every time, and have never had an issue finding a parking spot. 

Prankster Note

The Prankster thanks the contributor for a very useful piece of research and analysis. it is clear short sighted councils kill town centres with parking charges. Although the money rolls in at first, motorists eventually move away to other towns or out of town retail centres. 

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster


  1. Sunderland....
    Oh Sunderland.
    It more or less closed with the aggressive parking ticketing. We, my wife and I, used to go there regularly in the 1990's but it's got so damn bad we give it a miss whenever we can now.
    When I go there out of absolute necessity I always manage to find a parking place where the signs say you'll be clamped on an otherwise empty car park. I know I can safely ignore those threats.
    On the other hand, when we go together and spend some time in the likes of Debenhams the NCP multi storey car park is great. You know how much it'll cost and it's not a lot, and never run the risk of getting a ticket for an unintended overstay. So hats off to the PPC's who buy, or have built for them, a car park to run as a legitimate business.

  2. the silly thing is, charging for parking itself is not necessarily bad. But charging too much is, as is expecting people to guess how long they need or overpay just in case, at penalty of an extortionate fee. Fair pricing and pay on exit works, not as well as free parking of which there is no beating to attract casual customers, but at least you pay for what you use with no risk of a fine or invoice.