Parking charges do not help high street shops
Our columnist with his unique view of Ashford life
Itook a little time out to read Simon Neville’s piece in the Observer – the piece in which he describes County Square as looking like ‘a high street graveyard’. His opening statement contains more than a grain of truth; the spectral presences (or should I say absences?) of HMV, Jessops and other major stores do indeed haunt County Square like ghosts of Christmas past. And Park Mall, with its two criminally mutilated birch trees, has little to offer apart from the Polish grocer’s shop with its large display of cooked meats and inscrutably labelled dry goods.
In truth, the real thrust of Mr Neville’s article was sympathetic toward retailers, pointing out that the big problem is the way in which the Government has allowed business rates to get out of hand.
Sadly, it was the comments gathered from local traders which gave the article its negative slant.
I’m all in favour of heaping blame on the council for their actual failings but I really can’t see how they can be deemed responsible for what is universally recognized to be a global malaise.
Mr Wooden (as quoted in the Observer article) says that pedestrianisation of the town centre has made things worse; that is complete nonsense.
Given the rise in population of the town in recent years and the numbers of pedestrians filling the
‘I’m all in favour of heaping blame on the council for their actual failings but I really can’t see how they can be deemed responsible for ... a global malaise’
streets, coupled with kamikaze cyclists and the increasing use of electric wheelchairs, how on earth does he think a line or two of traffic down the middle could possibly improve matters?
Where some blame can reasonably be laid at the council’s door is in the matter of parking charges.
I don’t know whether it is the council’s employees or the elected members who are responsible for setting these. Of course, the councillors are ultimately responsible for approving such things – but councillors are relatively easily manipulated by promise of fat revenue.
It will be interesting to see how the £200,000 provided by Portas and Sainsbury’s will be spent and what the cost will be of the muchvaunted website and portable telephone application to tell people where our remaining shops are located.