Is it really what's putting shoppers off? In defence of Sunderland's parking charges

If one subject is forever lodged in the most romantic chamber of our mortal souls, it has to be car parking.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 10:11 am
What more could anyone reasonably expect of St Mary's car park?

Well maybe not. But for the local economy it’s a crucial issue.

The city centre has 3,407 bays, 73% of which have Safer Parking status. The cheapest are 80p per hour, or £4 per day. A handful of street bays are free for an hour, which suits cheapskates like me. Everywhere is free after 3pm each Thursday.

Sunniside is as good a car park as you'll find anywhere.

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Most expensive is the 480-space St Mary’s, which is the of particular renown. It’s a beaut. Where have you seen a better one?

It has toilets, four electrical charging points, (free) parking for bicycles and motorbikes and a covered footbridge adjoining the shops. Even after 26 years it still has a 100% car crime free security record.

I’ve been in worse pubs. I’ve most definitely been in a worse railway station. Short of a foot rub and complimentary tea and biccies; what more could be asked of a car park?

It costs, at most, £1.50 per hour to use.

Never forget that some people don’t have £1.50. However, when we hear people with the means to own a car and eat in restaurants, refusing to do so in Sunderland city centre as they could incur parking costs of less than a half of lager, it does sound rather curious.

We can’t reasonably expect great parking facilities for free.

Anyone who has to work in the city centre and pay to park throughout each working day is deserving of our sympathy. In an Echo poll, 85% of people said public transport is too expensive.

But for shoppers; is it really putting them off? If so, why?

There are things that do deter shopping in Sunderland. But is the cost of parking really prohibitively expensive?

Sunderland’s populace can drag themselves to, for example, the Metro Centre and park free. Of course, this entails a 30-mile, hour-long round trip on the choked A1 and its attendant cost in petrol. That’s assuming that gigantic shopping malls are to everyone’s taste.

Having done that, you can then spend your money in another town, thereby depriving Sunderland of revenue and contributing to the regression of your own city centre. You can still moan about this as, luckily, every problem can be blamed on someone else and you might save 80p.

Another alternative is the Galleries in Washington. Good. It’s part of the city too.

Following the Echo’s feature, some misleading and wildly inaccurate information about the cost of parking in other towns and cities was bandied. There is no place of comparable size where city centre parking is free.

In truth, Sunderland isn’t competing with other towns to draw shoppers from afar. It just wants to keep its own citizens spending here.

The cost of parking, less still the quality of the car parks, is not the main issue.