|Town Centre Parking Fears are Baseless, says Council
Claims that a drop in the number of car parking spaces in Wigan is affecting town centre trade are unfounded, according to new council figures.
Regular surveys carried out by parking chiefs show that even on Saturday - the busiest trading day of the week - spaces are always available at two of the town’s three multi-storey car parks.
While the Galleries multi-storey invariably fills up quickly, Mesnes Terrace is rarely if ever completely full, while the multi-storey at Water Street usually has more than 100 unused spaces at any one time.
Figures for the number of shoppers visiting the town centre also show an increase on the same period last year, while several retailers have reported that business is booming.
Town centre manager Mike Matthews believes the figures prove that the town is coping well with the disruption caused by construction of the Grand Arcade and the demolition of two multi-storey car parks. He said:
“Contrary to the fears expressed by some people, there has never been a time when the town has run out of parking. Drivers may need to be a little flexible and if the place where they used to park is no longer available then they will need to look elsewhere.”
“However there is plenty of spare capacity especially on Water Street and on surface parks slightly out of the main centre but within easy walking distance.”
Most of the surface car parks also have plenty of empty spaces, especially Parson’s Walk at Wigan College and Chapel Lane, which have been made available for Saturday shoppers. Plans to make Chapel Lane free on Saturdays for an experimental three month basis were passed at this week’s council cabinet meeting.
Mr Matthews revealed that town centre trade as a whole is slightly UP on last year. ‘Footfall’ figures comparing the same five weeks in March and early April 2004 and 2005 show increases of between 0.2 and 11 per cent. He added:
“Overall many retailers are doing well. For example, Primark reports fantastic trade and was the number one performing Primark store in the whole of the country last week. The Clarks Shoes franchise in the Galleries is confident enough to invest in the town and will be opening an additional unit in May.”
“Obviously there are variations in these figures and some traders on the edge of the centre may be experiencing a fall. But you have to remember that there is a downturn in retail trade nationally for the first time in several years, and increased competition from supermarkets and out of centre shops.”
“There is no sense of complacency and wherever we hear of problems we do our best to resolve them.”
“But overall many traders tell me that they are optimistic about the future. Wigan is very much open for business as normal, and for most retailers the most worrying development would be if people started to ‘talk down’ the centre. This would be the quickest way to damage trade.”
Extra on-street parking is being introduced on Library Street shortly in response to concerns expressed by businesses in and around Wallgate and Library Street. A leaflet showing all the car parks is also in production and will be available shortly. Mr Matthews said:
“Obviously construction of the Grand Arcade is creating some disruption in the town centre. But I and the majority of retailers are convinced it is not having a significant effect on trade or parking, and that it is absolutely vital for the town centre’s future viability.”