Nick Boles: Let’s work together to give Stamford a town centre to be proud of

Nick Boles
Nick Boles

Like town centres across the country, Stamford faces unprecedented challenges from changes in technology and shopping habits.

Rapid growth in the range of online shops and the number of people with access to fast broadband means that more and more people are doing more and more of their shopping online.

And in lots of households both partners work full time so convenience has become the main factor determining where and when we do our offline shopping: many of us want to stock up with what we need on our way to or from work.

As a result of these changes, town centre shops now have to compete with out-of-town shopping centres and online retailers. But they face a critical disadvantage in doing so.

Parking is free at out-of-town shopping centres. And shopping online while comfortably perched on your sofa is of course also free. But if you want to park in Stamford town centre car parks, you have to pay.

Over the last three years I have watched changes in shopping habits gather pace and discussed the implications with local retailers and property owners.

I have now come to a stark conclusion: If we want to save our town centres and see them restored as the bustling hearts of our communities, we need the local council to give them a level playing field with their competitors.

And that means free parking.

So on December 7, which we in the UK are celebrating as Small Business Saturday, I am launching a Free Parking Campaign.

I am calling on our local council, South Kestven District Council, to install exit barriers at all its car parks and introduce two- hours free parking on a permanent basis.

This will mean that shoppers can park for free while office workers parking for the whole day will still pay a reasonable sum.

Some may argue that the council can’t afford to do this. I say it can’t afford not to.

The district council has a solemn responsibility to do everything in its power to help Stamford’s town centre adapt, revive and thrive.

And nothing would do more to create jobs, and boost the council’s tax revenues, than a strong resurgence of spending in our town centres.

I urge all readers of the Mercury to sign the Free Parking Petition which is on my website

Let’s work together to give Stamford a town centre that we can be proud of once more.