Signs indicate free parking initiative failed

A new initiative designed to encourage more people into Wilmslow and boost trade seems to have failed to grab people's attention.

Towards the end of last year Cheshire East Council introduced up to 4 days of free parking a year in Council owned car parks where charges apply.

In Wilmslow the offer of free parking applies to South Drive; Hoopers; Spring Street and the Rex car parks and can be used on any four days in a 12 month period.

Wilmslow Town Council chose Tuesday, 27th December 2016 to have the first free day of parking, to tie in with the start of the sales for many Wilmslow stores.

Town Clerk Matthew Jackson said "27th December being the first day of the winter sales for most shops in Wilmslow should be a very busy day. Free parking should benefit the retailers by providing an added incentive to come to Wilmslow and benefit visitors and businesses by encouraging longer stays in the town."

Today, Saturday, 28th January, was selected as the second day of free parking.

Matthew Jackson explained ""In order to help generate footfall at a quiet time of the year the date of Saturday 28 January will have free parking."

However, having visited the South Drive, Hoopers and Rex car parks this morning it was clearly apparent that the vast majority of motorists had no idea that car parking was free today.

My daughters and I walked up and down several aisles of the car park at Sainsbury's and the driver of every car, bar one, had purchased a parking ticket. Which was not surprising really, given there were no signs on the actual ticket machines, instead there was a sign on a post several metres away.

At Hoopers car park the sign was on a post as you drove in, however at the Rex car park - where there was a sign adjacent to the ticket machine - we noticed a few more drivers had not purchased tickets.

Speaking about the introduction of the scheme, a spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said: "The primary purpose of this incentive is to support our towns and provide a flexible incentive which can be used in the run up to Christmas or spread throughout the year to aid key town events. This is in addition to the free parking after 3pm at certain designated car parks within the borough."

However, if the vast majority of people using the car parks are not even aware of the free parking then surely the initiative cannot succeed in its aim of attracting more people into the town.

Wilmslow Town Council has selected Good Friday as the third day because it "is another very busy day for retail stores and, as parking charges would normally apply, this date has also been selected in order to encourage footfall" and the final date is yet to be confirmed.

In order to avoid all the spaces being taken up by workers, the free parking starts after 10am.

Did you realise there was free parking in the town centre today, Saturday, 28th Janaury? Do you think this scheme has an impact on the number of people coming into Wilmslow to use the shops, bars and restaurants? If not, do you have any alternate suggestions for attracting more people with free parking?

Share your views via the comment box below.

Parking, Parking


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Christine Thomasson
Saturday 28th January 2017 at 6:13 pm
Brilliant. Offer free parking and fail to raise awareness of said free parking. How very generous...
You couldn't make it up.
Steve Kennedy
Saturday 28th January 2017 at 9:20 pm
Dead right Christine, i put a lot of effort into the Free-After-3 campaign for Spring Street carpark, i stated on many an occasion, you cannot have an initiative without a marketing campaign. I did my own sign, then the town council fabulously joined the signage campaign and provided a permanent one, which, to their eternal credit, they let me install! I love it so much when that happens, and will never forget that. Thats teamwork and recognition.

It needs someone to own those free days, market them, push them, do signs, advertise at the Market, good grief, this is not difficult to do!!!

In this town, you cannot, cannot assume someone else will do it. Lots of initiatives are kicked off, but it takes ownership to see them through.
Nick Jones
Saturday 28th January 2017 at 9:38 pm
Good idea.. Abysmal Marketing
Dave Cash
Sunday 29th January 2017 at 12:07 am
I did not know today was a free-parking day. Was RINGO accepting payments for parking today?
I can just about accept the rationale for 27 Dec 16 but why choose today for free parking?
Good Friday - most of those benefitting will assume it is because Good Friday is a Bank Holiday and may expect to park f.o.c. on other Bank Holidays (like 27 Dec 16).
Suggested dates for future - Party/Cinema in the Carrs or day of National Celebration, pre-Xmas Artisan market.
WTC selects dates and WBG provides publicity signage in each Wilmslow car park.
One day remaining, poss for day of Motor Show or Wilmslow Show,
David Cain
Sunday 29th January 2017 at 8:18 pm
It wasn't very well advertised!
What about free parking on Saturdays, every Saturday? Advertise and promote it heavily. It would soon catch on!
Anything that gets more money into the town must be good for retailers.
There are too many empty shops already. That isn't good for the Council as that means no business rates being collected! Surely the more customers in Wilmslow would outweigh the loss of money collected at the car parks!
Catherine Mackenzie
Monday 30th January 2017 at 11:03 am
Wilmslow Town Council was approached by Cheshire East Council to offer FOUR free days parking per year. The Town Council consulted Wilmslow Business Group on which days would best suit the town's retailers and leisure operators. Clearly there were lots of dates that could have been selected. However, the Business Group selected 27th December, 28th January and Good Friday to encourage footfall into the town. There are reasons behind each of those dates.

As the article suggests I am sure that we can do better with the marketing of the free car parking days. To date the Town Council and the Business Group have sent out press releases, printed and displayed the car parking signs and have mentioned it on social media. I hope that the Editor will help us publicise this positive initiative, and in the run-up to Easter will promote that there is free parking on Good Friday.
Catherine Mackenzie, Chairman of Wilmslow Business Group
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 1st February 2017 at 5:20 pm
I had no idea this was going on. Zero publicity outside the town.
James MacDonald
Wednesday 1st February 2017 at 11:29 pm
The up to 4 days free parking initiative was a ridiculous concept, so it was inevitable it would fail. If you want to increase footfall, make car parks free. There is a good reason people drive to shopping centres out of town, free parking. If you can't beat them, join them.

I walk in so it doesn't bother me.
Sally Hoare
Thursday 2nd February 2017 at 3:18 pm
Maybe someone could tell us exactly where this was advertised in order to attract outsiders to the town for the first time?