WRIGHT THINKING: Would free parking boost businesses?

Car parking at Seaton Carew . Picture by FRANK REID
Car parking at Seaton Carew . Picture by FRANK REID

It’s that time of year when a barrage of healthy advice hits us, and wouldn’t it be great if it were a bit consistent?

You know the kind of thing – red wine is good for you and butter is bad for you one day, then the next day it’s the other way round!

The thing which is supremely annoying is when you try to do the right thing and officialdom gives you a smack anyway.

A classic example came along at the very start of this month.

A friend lives in the countryside near Bedale in North Yorkshire and, with another couple, he and his wife went for a celebratory meal in the town on New Year’s Eve.

Knowing that there would be a glass of wine or two involved, they did the sensible thing and left the car in the town centre and shared a taxi home.

When they went back on the afternoon of New Year’s Day to collect the car, they were amazed to find that there was a hefty parking fine sticker on the windscreen.

Remember that this was on a public holiday, and there was a tiny amount of traffic around as most of the world was still waking up at home.

Apparently the local council is now looking into their policy on parking charges on bank holidays and fingers crossed that common sense prevails.

Paying for parking on any day annoys people – just look around Hartlepool and you don’t need to be a genius to see that shops and the rest with free parking do a much better trade than those where you have to pay.

I don’t think it’s all about the money either.

Even worse than shelling out a pound or two is the lack of relaxation you have when shopping or enjoying a cuppa because you are keeping an eye on your parking expiry time.

Talking of time, there’s very rarely much logic in that department.

Over the years, I’ve been invited to various business events in busy centres like Newcastle or Middlesbrough – beginning at nine in the morning.

You couldn’t imagine a worse time slot to be joining the commuter traffic, and far too few organisers have the sense to start at eight or ten for example.

The same applies when you are making longer runs to London and, happily, a happy few are thinking outside the box.

If you are going down for an early start it means paying peak time train fares or hitting the nightmare which is London’s snail pace traffic.

There’s no earthly reason why a meeting can’t start late morning and finish after the tea time rush – and have exactly the same duration as bad option one.

Most business gurus will tell you that thinking differently often leads to success, and it would be nice to give it a try here in Hartlepool.

I’d be interested in a plan for making all town parking free for a year – and seeing whether the increased business footfall and profits exceeded the car parking revenue.

FPH – free parking in Hartlepool – may be more appealing than being ripped off in Bedale.