PEOPLE power has won through after a petition for two-hours free parking in Hartlepool forced the council to stage a debate on its policy.
Hartlepool Borough Council is set to discuss its parking charges after a 500-name petition was submitted calling for the break in fees.
Richard Royal, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Hartlepool, initiated and organised the petition which calls for the council to provide the first two hours parking free everywhere within the town centre.
Within just two weekends he collected over 500 signatures from local shoppers and businesses supporting his campaign.
Current parking charges range from around 70p for one-hour parking, £1.40 for two hours, £2.10 for three hours, £2.80 for four hours, and £3.50 for five hours.
Under new rules, residents and businesses can challenge parking charges or restrictions if they gather a certain number of signatures.
This triggers a local authority review of parking policy, including a full report for consideration by councillors at a public meeting.
The move was hailed by shoppers and businesses who all said it would boost trade in the town centre and could bring in more visitors.
The petition has been submitted to council chiefs, who are to discuss the issue at a forthcoming meeting.
A council spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have received a petition from Mr Royal and that we have acknowledged receipt of this. As the petition relates to a town wide issue we have forwarded it to the relevant Committee Chair.
“The Neighbourhood Services Committee Chair has confirmed that she expects a report at their next meeting.
“However, as there are no further meetings scheduled before the local elections, it will be presented to the committee in the new municipal year.
“Mr Royal will be kept up to date with progress.”
The proposal mirrors those currently used in Middlesbrough where visits to the town centre increased by 128 per cent after implementing the free two-hour scheme.
In a separate petition focusing specifically at the marina which is privately owned by developers Mandale, Mr Royal also gained enough signatures to trigger the review - but has requested the council use this to challenge the owners to remove parking fees there too.
Both petitions contain not only names of residents, but also many business owners who have backed the call.
Mr Royal said: “Having spoken directly to many local businesses and shoppers I know that parking is one of the major burdens.
“Shoppers are deterred by parking charges – whether it’s the cost, the principle, the fear of unfair fines, or just the hassle of having coins handy.
“This in turn means that businesses suffer, and are less able to employ people, resulting in more empty units and fewer jobs. It’s a downward spiral which needs correcting and these proposals will help to stimulate business, growth and jobs in Hartlepool.”
Royal has formally submitted both petitions to Hartlepool Borough Council, with a copy of the Marina petition also being sent to marina owners Mandale.
The Council must now complete a report reviewing the policy and debate it at a future public meeting.