Without any consultation with councillors, Shropshire Council is to reintroduce car parking charges across the county on Tuesday 14 July. This could not be worse timed. Ludlow is beginning to recover from lockdown but it is a long haul ahead. Social distancing is a challenge everywhere but more so in a historic town with narrow streets and pleasantly ancient pubs, restaurants and cafes. Free parking in the Galdeford and Smithfield car parks should be part of Ludlow’s offer over the summer.
We councillors have been told that officers are “looking at how Park and Ride may support more fully and proposals are in development.” But there is no timetable for this. Not even an indication that the council is thinking about Ludlow’s park and ride service, which is unusable at present.
There should be no additional car park charges this summer and certainly none until the park and ride is fully functional.
Charges in Ludlow are not high. But we know that free parking is an incentive for casual visitors. And we need all the footfall we can get.
Castle Street charges (hourly £1; charges already in force). Galdeford A charges (hourly 50p). Galdeford B charges (hourly 30p). Smithfield charges (hourly 30p). Charges on-street are already in force and are £1.80 an hour in the town centre.
The park and ride site is broken. We councillors are consulting on improvements. It is unusable as a park and ride service at present. There are only six buses a day. If people miss the 10:26 into town, the next bus is 13:26 – a full three hour gap. Timetable.
The reason car park charges are being reintroduced is quite simply money. Shropshire Council is chasing an £18 million deficit this year. The government has announced more money for councils, but the cash settlement amounts to an average of £1.4m, a drop in the ocean of deficit. In better news, the government is offering 75p in the pound for councils’ losses of income from charges. Details of this scheme have not yet been spelt out. I hope when we see them, Shropshire Council will change its mind on charges at a point when our town is declaring it is open and welcoming.
Telford and Wrekin Council is taking a different approach. Parking in Ironbridge, a historic town like Ludlow, will remain free over the summer. Councillor Lee Carter told the Star: “We want to do what we can to help businesses and to get people shopping local and supporting businesses across our high streets and district centres.”