TRADERS are hopeful that plans to make parking free at the bottom of Bath Street will bring more shoppers to the ‘deserted’ bottom of town.
Leader of the council Cllr Chris Corbett told the Advertiser this week that nearly £15,000 saved by axing three out of four scrutiny committees will be used to remove charges from Brussels Terrace car park.
And he pledged that the Tory ruling group at Erewash Borough Council plans to one day make every one of its car parks in the town free.
Richard Hooper, owner of tattoo parlour Ilson Ink, said: “It’s a great idea. Nobody starts their shopping at the bottom of town – people get off the bus near the middle.
“People shouldn’t have to pay just to nip out for a few things. It should have been done a lot sooner.”
Cllr Corbett explained: “We feel we need to help the shops on Lower Bath Street as much as we can. We feel if you can remove parking charges it can only help trade.”
A report is due to come before the council executive at the end of this month, which will give recommendations about how the free parking will work.
He said that the Brussels Terrace car park brings in about £12,000 a year by charging 80p for up to two hours and £1 for more than two hours.
Cash saved from the administration costs of charging fees and councillors’ special allowances for the axed committees will be used to cover the cost.
Cadia Battersby from Acacia Books said: “When I first came to Erewash it was free parking everywhere so it’s good that it’s finally coming back.”
The move has been welcomed too by Ilkeston Chamber of Trade. President David Thorpe, who owns Thorpe’s in South Street, said: “I am very pleased to hear that, in fact I’m very surprised.
“We have had so much resistance in the past to free parking – it’s critical to the future of the town.”
But the move has come too late for one trader who has closed his computer supplies shop Visage Computers this week. Scott Elkington is now taking his business mobile instead of having a fixed base on Bath Street.
He said: “It’s too little, too late for me. This should have been done much sooner.”
Some traders are pleased that they too will be able to make use of the free parking.
Andy Hunt, manager of Sanders Menswear, said: “When you’re working five or six days a week, parking costs can really add up so this will reduce the strain on staff.
“Anything that will bring in more people down here is a good idea.”
But Labour leader Cllr Howard Griffiths has attacked the plan as a ‘drop in the ocean’ and slammed the plan to cut the amount of scrutiny the leading party will face.
“It’s pathetic,” he said. “He’s taunting us.
“He knows who angry Labour councillors are about how they have let Lower Bath Street fall apart – this is just a drop in the ocean in terms of what needs to be done in our town centres.
“Most of his political support comes from parished areas – that’s what has kept him in power. He’s not interested in town centres.
“The two things [scrutiny and parking] ought not to be linked. In an executive system you require a balance whereby the executive is held to account.”
Cllr Griffiths’s Labour group has refused to attend the one remaining scrutiny committee after Cllr Corbett has not given a Labour councillor the chair or vice-chair position, despite the Tories only holding a one-seat majority.