Sidmouth parking plea after Portas Review

BUSINESS leaders in Sidmouth have again called for parking charges to be cut in light of a review of Britain’s high streets by retail guru Mary Portas.

A Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce spokesperson said traders welcomed the report as it made government and local authorities “aware of the structural problems faced by town centres today”.

The government commissioned Portas Report concluded that affordable car parking, as well as cutting regulations for traders and having a national market day could stave off further decline.

“High streets across the country are struggling because of the recession, but there are more long term forces at work, in particular the increase in out-of-town retailing, the power of the supermarkets and the internet,” said a chamber spokesman.

He added that the “most powerful” message from Mary Portas was that car parking was “far too expensive”.

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“The review also calls for greater cooperation between the authorities and local representatives such as chambers of commerce and other community groups,” added the spokesman. “This would be a very good thing. At present there is very little consultation.”

East Devon District Council (EDDC) says there is “significant reference” to the health of town centres in its Draft Local Plan, for which a study was commissioned - but there is no reference to the Portas recommendations.

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On car park charges, a spokesperson said: “We use a number of criteria in setting these, but the decisions are driven more by the financial implications for all parties – rather than planning policy.”

Councillor Mike Allen, chairman of EDDC’s local plan panel, said: “Much of the review reflects what’s happening in the South West anyway. There is some excellent work being done. It may accelerate acceptance of these changes, but even if every recommendation is adopted, this will not herald in a new resilient future for our high streets. We can’t buck the effects of internet buying, transport and parking problems and pressure from economic changes.”

EDDC is currently carrying out a review of its car parks.

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