Free parking is back

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PLANS to split Garstang’s Windsor Road car park into TWO separate car parks – with different operators and different charging structures – have been branded as crazy.

However, the change will also herald a BIG bonanza for Garstang drivers – with free parking returning to Garstang – though ONLY on the Booths-owned area of the car park!

Parking meters on the Booths-owned area of the car park are to be removed as part of a ‘split’, following a fallout between the respected store chain and Wyre Council over the charging regime at the busy car park – which straddles land owned by both.

From September 5, the Booths-owned car park will be free for three hours. The Wyre Council part of the car park will remain pay and display. Details of the unusual developments at the car park and the return of free parking, were revealed this week.

Booths property director Graham Booth said: “We are delighted to be providing free car parking for Garstang, which we truly believe is great news for the town and its development, during a period when people are continually searching for ways to make savings.

“It affords Garstang with a fantastic opportunity to recapture the trade it has lost over the years to larger towns, and put the town firmly on the map as a great value shopping destination.”

Booths said its free parking would not be linked to a ‘spend in store’, and changes to the car park would be kept to a minimum to lessen the disruption to the public.

Wyre Council went into partnership with Booths before the new store was built two years ago, with the council operating the enlarged and reshaped car park, but with Booths holding an effective veto over increases in parking fees.

The Courier has previously reported on behind-the-scenes tensions between the two over the past year, over plannned increases in parking charges.

It has now been revealed Booths had been pressing the council to allow free parking for a three-hour stay on the whole park - with the supermarket chain offering to make up for the loss of revenue.

Booth’s decision to ‘go it alone’ with free parking and Wyre’s rejection of the Booths plans, means that as from next month the 300 space car park will be divided into:

* a Booths car park with 200 free parking spaces, and

* a Wyre Council car park with 100 pay and display parking spaces.

The division of the car park has been condemned as confusing, but the free parking welcomed. Garstang Chamber of Trade spokesman Damian Carr said he was astonished at Wyre rejecting Booths proposal to subsidise the council and creating free parking on the existing car park.

Mr Carr said: “On the face Wyre were looking a gift horse in the mouth and have rejected it.”

He said he welcomed the Booths free parking, but was puzzled by the need for the car park to be split into two distinct identities, adding: “It’s a bit crazy.”

Explaining the failure to reach agreement with Booths, Wyre Council said the deal had been subject to certain caveats (which the council and Booths have not revealed) but says it could not agree to because “the criteria was too restrictive and not in the best long-term interests of the Garstang community.”

Wyre Council leader, Coun Peter Gibson, said: “It is unfortunate agreement could not be reached, but the community can be assured that we will monitor the situation as best we can.

“The council has a duty to make the best use of our assets and we are acting in the long-term interests of Garstang as a whole.”

* Comment, page six