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A petition of hundreds of names calling for the abolition of parking charges in Hartlepool has been submitted to the Council, forcing it to review its parking policy.

Richard Royal, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Hartlepool, initiated and organised the petition which calls on Hartlepool Borough Council to provide the first two hours parking free everywhere within the town centre. Within just two weekends he collected over 900 signatures of local shoppers and businesses supporting his campaign.

Under new Deregulation and Localism guidance published last Friday by Conservative DCLG Secretary Eric Pickles, residents and businesses can challenge parking charges or restrictions if they gather a certain number of local signatures. This triggers a local authority review of parking policy, including a full report for consideration by councillors at a public meeting.

The Conservative’s Deregulation Bill also grants ‘ten minute parking grace periods’, giving shoppers greater peace of mind. Over the last year the Council has pocketed £73,000 from penalty charge notices in Hartlepool.

Royal’s proposals mirror those currently used in Middlesbrough, whose Mayoral Office he consulted prior to putting together the petition, where visits to the town centre increased by 128% after implementing the free two hour scheme.

The proposals would enable people to visit the town centre for many regular activities without charge, including dropping a cheque into the bank, going to the hairdressers, shopping or meeting a friend for coffee. Evidence shows that the vast majority of visits take less than two hours, whilst a cap at this point prevents misuse.

Many local businesses feel that current fees deter people from visiting the town centre and often encourage them to shop out-of-town, affecting the viability of their business and putting jobs at risk. Empty or less well used retail areas can become a further deterrent themselves, prompting potential new businesses to look elsewhere and shoppers to avoid the area.

In a separate petition focusing specifically on the Marina which is privately owned by developers Mandale, Royal also gained enough signatures to trigger the review but has requested the council use this as legitimacy 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.

Richard Royal said:

“The Labour Council already takes far too much money off us, and the last people that should be penalised for shopping are the shoppers themselves. 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.”

Eric Pickles, DCLG Secretary of State said:

“Over-zealous parking enforcement undermines our town centres and costs councils more in the long-term. Our measures not only bring big benefits for high streets, motorists and local authorities - they put common sense back into parking.”

Royal has formally submitted both petitions to Hartlepool Borough Council with a letter enacting the DCLG’s localism requirement. A copy of the Marina petition has also been sent to Mandale. The Council must now complete a report reviewing the policy and debate it at a future public meeting.

You can still support the campaign by adding your name at the links below:

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