A TRADERS’ chief has urged Oxford City Council leaders to consider introducing cut-price parking for shoppers to encourage more trade in the city centre during the day.

Rescue Oxford spokesman Graham Jones said he was putting forward the proposal because the Westgate car park is currently underused and he wants more shoppers to come into Oxford in the run-up to the £400m revamp of the Westgate Centre, due for completion in 2017.

If a ‘shoppers’ tariff’ was introduced, people would pay less to park between 10am and 4pm.

Mr Jones is floating his idea following the appointment of Laurie Taylor as city centre manager by the city and county councils and the Oxford Town Team.

He said: “I put forward this proposal in 2012 to Gordon Reid who was then city centre manager and again last year at a meeting with city council leader Bob Price and county council leader Ian Hudspeth.

“Bob seemed quite sympathetic at the meeting in February last year at the Old Bank Hotel but so far nothing has come of it and I think that’s a missed opportunity because the system could be trialled before the new Westgate Centre opens.

“I think you would have to drop the charges by £1 an hour to entice people in, and the councils would then have to run that system for long enough to recoup their investment on changing the ticket machines.

“But I think it would work because commuters wouldn’t benefit and it would bring in shoppers.

“At the moment the Westgate car park is considerably under-used and serious shoppers are drifting away to other centres.”

Mr Price has said that the city council, which runs five car parks in the city centre and three park-and-ride sites, was looking into whether the tariff would be feasible. He said: “We have had a good discussion with the town team about the idea and at some point after the council elections we will go back to them and draw up some final details.

“There are spaces in the car parks in the middle of the day so there is extra potential to bring people in and it is something we are looking at very seriously.

“But we have to do some analysis.

“There will be a hit to our finances but if it’s small we can take it, and if it generates more business we might get more out of it.”

Mr Hudspeth, the leader of the county council which owns the other two park-and-ride sites, said: “It is one of the things we have toyed around with but obviously it would mean we would have to upgrade all the technology of the parking meters.

“I would be happy to have dis- cussions about whether it is possible or feasible.”

In 2009, the city council increased its car park charges by an average of 15 per cent in a bid to raise an additional £500,000. In 2010 it emerged that there had been an 11 per cent fall in car park usage on the previous year.

But in 2012/13 the city council made a surplus of £4.5m from parking.

A report to the council’s executive board said there had been an ongoing fall in council car park usage, with income forecast to be £700,000 below budget.

In the first three months of the 2010/2011 financial year, 166,149 people used the Westgate car park, compared to 204,571 in the same period two years before, and income from the Westgate in the first quarter of the year fell to £669,072, from £802,788 in the same period in 2009/10.

Parking for free

IN West Oxfordshire, the district council has made it a policy to provide free parking to encourage shoppers to drive into the area’s towns.

Shoppers going into Abingdon can park free in the Vale of White Horse District Council’s car parks for two hours.

The scheme was introduced in 2011 to attract thousands of extra shoppers, even though it was costing the council £250,000 a year in lost revenue.

There is also two hours’ free parking at the Sainsbury’s car park next to the Orchard Centre in Didcot.

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