Free parking in Northampton town centre to be discussed by councillors as part of Covid recovery
Independent councillor Julie Davenport believes re-think warranted on long-running issue
Councillors will discuss making it free to park in Northampton town centre as a way to help with the coronavirus pandemic recovery at a meeting next week.
Independent councillor Julie Davenport has called on West Northamptonshire Council to support town centres in a motion for the One Angel Square meeting on Thursday (September 23).
The Far Cotton councillor believes free parking in council car parks would benefit and bring Northampton in line with the rest of West Northamptonshire.
"Businesses have suffered because of Covid but the town centre as a whole has suffered in recent years," she told the Chronicle & Echo.
"We have free parking everywhere else in West Northamptonshire, in Daventry, Towcester and Brackley, and I know the BID [Business Improvement District] thinks it would fairer if everyone had a small charge or it was free the same as other towns.
"I know personally if I wanted to buy something or go to the chemist or anything else in town I would probably go to one of the malls outside of town as you don't pay for parking.
"So yes I think it would get people there more - I probably should go into town but if I'm only going to spend £5, I don't want to pay that in parking."
Free parking in Northampton town centre has regularly been called for as a way to improve footfall and the old borough council refused to do it.
But with Covid accelerating the decline of the high street and Northampton now being part of the same local authority as towns with free parking, Councillor Davenport believes a re-think is warranted.
Shoppers can park in Brackley town centre for up to three hours for free and for up to two hours in Daventry and Towcester town centres, whereas the minimum fee is £1 in Northampton.
Councillor Davenport said: "People say you can't expect people to pay in places like Towcester but I don't get that, why not? We don't have that much more to offer.
"I think the council does want to help the town centre and help the businesses but any money from Covid funds would help and it could upset other towns I suppose if we say they have to pay £1 now.
"But Councillor Sue Sharp, who is from Brackley, has said she doesn't think it's far for them not to pay when they do in Northampton."
Councillor Davenport's motion also calls on the council to investigate other options and initiatives to 'improve and stimulate our town centres'.