Several shops have each collected well over 100 signatures from customers who back the Society’s campaign to try to persuade Barnet Council to agree to an hour’s free parking along the High Street and in the three council-owned car parks.
Early indications suggest that the High Street petition may have attracted more than 1,500 signatures – and still counting. This is in addition to the 130 who signed in support at the Barnet Christmas Fair in December and the 353 who have backed the petition online on the Society’s website.
At its January meeting (22.1.2015), the Society’s committee declared that the strength of local support was the clearest possible rebuttal of Councillor Dean Cohen for refusing to accept that Barnet Council’s expensive and inordinately complicated parking charges are partly responsible for driving customers away from High Barnet’s shopping centre.
Councillor Cohen, the cabinet member responsible for car parking, told the Barnet Times (15.1.2015) that charges had not caused the decline of high street shopping.
“We need to bust the myth that the health of the high street is all about parking. What we all really need to focus on is how we can help the high street adjust and innovate to meet the demands of the 21st-century consumer.”
At the start of the new year the Barnet Times followed the Society’s lead, joined the campaign to persuade Barnet Council to rethink its approach, and has launched its own online petition in support of 30 minutes of free parking in high streets throughout the London Borough of Barnet.
Since the launch of the Society’s petition last November, and the distribution of forms for signatures, there has been a groundswell of support from shops and other traders.
Some shops estimate they lost 20 to 25 per cent of their trade once parking by phone was imposed
Shops and businesses in nearby roads, not just in the High Street, were given petition forms; they have all been asked to estimate how much business they think they could regain if there was a period of free parking.
Some independent retailers that rely on passing trade, such as food shops, newsagents and hairdressers, estimate that custom might increase by up to 20 per cent or even more if High Barnet benefited from the free parking available in other nearby shopping centres.
In a statement thanking retailers for their assistance with the petition, the committee said it had been impressed by the determination of High Street traders to try to succeed, despite the hit their businesses took when the council removed parking meters that took cash and introduced a phone and credit card charging system.
“Some shops estimate they lost 20 to 25 per cent of their trade once parking by phone was imposed and it has been heartening to see how they have been encouraged by the Barnet Society’s petition.
They hope that the strength of support shown by their customers will have an impact on Barnet Council and the Chipping Barnet MP Mrs Theresa Villiers.
“Almost every trader has a horror story about losing trade from customers who cannot master parking by phone or who are not prepared to put their credit card into a parking meter in the High Street.
“Others say the main drawback of the complicated charging system is that it deters shoppers who want to pop in to pick up an item or make a simple purchase. They are not prepare to go through the rigmarole of paying by phone and are frightened they will get a parking ticket if they stop for a few minutes.
“The Society hopes that widespread support for the petition, and our analysis of shopkeepers’ estimates for the impact of trade, will bust Councillor Cohen’s myth that parking charges are not having an impact on our High Street.”