THE PARKING ISSUE

THE PARKING ISSUE

This photo might end up being historical in a short few years, Churchgate will change dramatically if the Councils plans and current planning applications complete. With Churchgate soon to be completely closed to through traffic, and more than 100 apartments in construction or planning over 3 sites, there’s going to be a lot more people around this side of town. A quick look at the planning applications and you’ll notice there’s parking for cycles, but not for cars. Nearby there’s on street metered parking, and the Churchgate car park, but will resident permit areas increase? There was a car park at Hopes Carr, but that’s becoming a public green space. There’s more houses planned and being constructed around Hempshaw Brook, I know as I’ve been listening to the din of ground works since mid-November!

So knowing all this is going on, it was interesting to read an article in the Manchester Evening News just before Christmas, that Stockport Town Centre has one of the country’s highest number of empty shops per town centre resident. The Council said the figures were “skewed” because the town centre doesn’t have many residents. Now I can get that, and understand that in the coming years there’ll be more people living here; meantime according to the Councils regeneration report, footfall in the town centre is still around 45% less than pre-Covid times. You can build new roads and new homes, but the people still gotta wanna get out or come here for something! 

The high street took a battering before Covid, and now our shopping habits have changed completely. Big stores suffered in ways they are unlikely to have seen coming, so they’ll be making more prudent decisions before opening any new stores, wanting to see high footfall and certainties first. This has to be accepted, it’s business, but where does that leave Stockport and Merseyway? The Council owns far more buildings and businesses in Stockport than I think many of us realise, and without some of them, Stockport would be further behind in the regeneration than it currently is. A survey in October 2021 reports there’s 318 independent business in the town centre, and proportionally of all businesses that’s higher than the national average. So you have to ask why some just focus on BID business!

I recently got the opportunity to ask the Council some questions about their parking plans. Amongst the “ambitious regeneration programme” parts of the Councils statement, I have to say, the best bit nearly got missed on first reading! ...“a £4.4m funding package for repair and improvement works to Merseyway Car Park has been approved, which will support the town centre redevelopment activity and will be carried out over next 2 financial years.” On 20th January the Council approved plans for Phase 1 to fix Merseyway car parks leaky floor/roof. Why has this stayed quiet! This is huge for Stockport, with the roof fixed there’s a knock-on effect for the shops underneath and the town centre as a whole! 

The car park last had a big fix in 2012, the Council’s still paying for it and clearly stretched out the patch jobs!  Again, a percentage of parking fees will pay back the new loan, the NCP contract ending helps. The Council add there’s “a challenge to capitalise on opportunities to generate income whilst balancing the achievement of long term income resulting from a more vibrant town centre. As is common across many town centres Stockport Council’s charging policy for town centre car parks helps towards ensuring car parking spaces are not taken up by commuters or employees working in the town centre to the detriment of other users.” Our readers suggest Council car parks have 1-2 hours of  free parking. Wouldn’t that also have a knock-on effect for shopping and socialising?

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