Wednesday 29 March 2023

Car Parks in Belper

 There seems to be a lot of opinion being aired on social media regarding the issue of so-called "free parking" in Belper. It is important in such matters to distinguish facts from non-researched belief and this post attempts to provide that factual base. The main contentions are that businesses will be harmed and that poor people will be impacted adversely but first let's look at why charges are being introduced.

Coppice car park charges.

Referring to the Belper Town Council website provides us with a succinct account of their reason for introducing charges: We see that the cost in business rates is £22,500 per year (and I know that when these rates were applied by central government the charges were backdated to 2017. So not only does BTC have to pay the current years charge but make good the backdated amount which more than doubles the amount for, I think, three years (though business rates were suspended for one year during the Covid pandemic). The council states, "As a council, we believe it is fairer that users of the car park pay for their usage rather than this cost being supported by everyone in the town regardless of car ownership."

The suggested charges are shown below compared to other car park charges in the town:

You can find the AVBC car park information at:

It should be noted that there is still more consultation required before charges are fixed and conditions applied. I can see that a change to the 4 hour charge on the Coppice may be anticipated because it stands out as the only increase over a charge in the other car parks. There has to be some clarity on the "over 4 hours" charge at the Coppice - does this mean 24 hours? If it does then that is superb value for those who park there and walk down to catch a train. Compare £2.50 with the charge of £14.50 at Derby Railway Station.

There will have to be some thought about season tickets and how they line up with AVBC offer but 99p a day that is hard to beat.

Finally, nearby residents will be offered parking permits as they currently depend upon the Coppice for longer term parking. This is a good step but which streets are referred to as "nearby" needs to be determined.

Will businesses and shops be harmed? 

There is a lot of misinformation being put online at the moment, some claims seeming incredible. I read that 97% of Belper residents were opposed to Coppice car park charges and that 86% of businesses were against it. I don't know anyone who has taken part in such a survey. When offered claims like this the Office for National Statistics advise that all evidence of such a survey should be disclosed. For example, 100% of the people I live with claimed that they were my wife. I think you get the picture.

As to businesses being polled; Belper Town Council invited local shops and businesses to take part in the initial round of consultation and only 2 responded. I can well understand that most shops are not too concerned as the sum total of car park spaces is well over a thousand (600 between AVBC & BTC plus all the supermarket car parks). The figure is probably much more as I have no hardened data for the spaces at Morrisons, Aldi and the Co-op. I estimate that the Coppice car park constitutes about a sixth of the total number of spaces available. If we factor in the AVBC residents permit and the number of folk who access the town via public transport or on foot/bicycle then the percentage impact of Coppice  car park charges on business is negligible. You have to keep a sense of proportion.

There are academic studies that look at the effect of withdrawing so-called free parking from town centres and I link to them here:

Leeds University - Parking Charges

Institute for Transport Studies

OECD - The Environmental effects of parking

These  three studies clearly show that charging for parking does not harm business activity and can offer clear commercial, environmental and health benefits. Below is one of a number of summary panels which are included in the Leeds University study (apologies for the quality of the image - I used screen snip)

Which brings us to:

Impoverished motorists

Sadly, the number of impoverished motorists has grown over the last few years as incomes have not kept up with the rising cost of living, exacerbated by a steep rise in inflation over the past few months. Let's look in more depth.

Pensioners in general have the time to shop and park using their AVBC residents permits and for a modest sum can do so after 14:00. They also have the use of a Gold Card and can travel on buses free after 09:30.

Household deprivation - Referring to the data now available from the 2021 Census we get a range of data to help us assess the number of motorists who may be impacted by proposed Coppice car park charges. For a start, 15% of households do not own a vehicle. Looking at the socio-economic data indicates, (if we assume levels 13 and below could be counted as impoverished) that there is a potential for 22% of people between the age of 16 and 64 could be impoverished. This does include 4.5% classified as students. I know that income data included in NP4B (Neighbourhood Plan for Belper) showed a potential for 14% of households to be below the poverty threshold (below 60% of current median (or typical) household income, taking into account the number of people living in the household. This does of course include all ages.

So how many motorists are impoverished? Sadly, many are but how many impoverished motorists use the Coppice car park ......... that we don't know. There are alternatives as I hope this article has shown however, some form of initiative to assist those dependent on cheap parking to gain an annual season ticket would be beneficial to ......... how many we don't know.


In conclusion

There are so many facts left out of this post. So much data from the 2021 Census or the Department of Works and Pensions area income data ................ or the Department for Transport annual traffic flow surveys  and for this you could look at  the NP4B on the Belper Town Council Website, specifically Addendum 5 Traffic survey and parking or Addendum 6 - Public Transport which does include data from the 2011 census showing that 33% of the 10th or lowest socio-economic households have the use of a single car.

You see, this is the sort of evidenced information that is needed if a true understanding is to be made of issues such as this. We live in the twenty first century and there should be no place for biased and deliberately misleading information to be spread on social media.