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Monday, January 21, 2019

Car park bargain scheme hailed a success

Ormskirk town centre businesses and West Lancashire Borough Council are hailing changes to parking charges aimed at encouraging people to spend more time in the town centre a big success.

In April 2018 the Council introduced new simplified parking charges. These mean that for just £1 drivers can now park on a Borough Council-operated town centre car park for up to three hours, except for the Council Offices car park on Derby Street. This gives them time to visit shops, browse through Ormskirk Market stalls on Thursdays and Saturdays, take in the latest Chapel Gallery Exhibition, and have a drink or bite to eat with no worries about getting a parking ticket.

The move reflects ongoing discussions with local businesses who felt that the previous pricing structure did not encourage people to stay for extended periods. They suggested the town's vitality would be helped by low-cost parking for up to a three-hour period.

Latest footfall figures for Ormskirk show the offer is proving popular. The town is bucking the national trend with visitor numbers are going up here, whereas they are mostly declining in other town centres. The footfall figures increased by 2.1% from 1 May 2018 to 31 December 2018 and by 2.7% from 1 June 2018 to 31 December 2018 compared to the equivalent periods the previous year. This is also down to the range of interesting new shops opening in the town, from national chains such as The Works, to quality bars and restaurants such as the Nordico Lounge and great independent businesses like Chia Chia, the vegan café and supermarket. This is on top of the existing great range of independent retailers the town has to offer.

The West Lancashire Borough Council-run Chapel Gallery has some great attractions for people to see, including the outstanding 'Opening the Gates' exhibition. This event highlights the role of women in World War One and has been extended to 2 March 2019. Running alongside that is The Loop Effect, the first digital exhibition to take place at the Gallery. It explores the process used in digital animation.

At a recent meeting of the Ormskirk Town Centre Management Group businesses were also very pleased with the results of the initiative. They also welcomed the fact that Ormskirk has far lower vacancy rates than virtually all other centres in the North West.

Councillor John Hodson, portfolio holder for Planning, said: "The Council is listening to local businesses about their ideas for Ormskirk and the success of this parking offer shows how by working together we can achieve great results. We are very pleased with the success of this scheme so far and expect it to continue to contribute to the vitality of the town centre. If you have a few spare hours come and experience what Ormskirk has to offer, have a bite to eat and browse around at your leisure, and most of all support your vibrant local centre."

Dave Coyle, Ormskirk Business Action Group chairman, said: "The removal of the ‘2-hour time pressure’ on parking has provided a timely boost to the whole Ormskirk community. The Council deserves special credit for engaging local businesses, identifying opportunities, developing clever options and achieving brilliant results. We’re moving forward together working on wonderful events and attracting strategic investment as demonstrated by the recent planning application for an aparhotel in the former Magistrates Court building. These might be difficult times - but Ormskirk town centre survives and thrives! And it’s all down to great people working together.”

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