Councillors are being asked to help shape the development of two key initiatives vital to the future of Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre.
The development of a 10-year parking strategy as well as how to breathe new life into the historic market are to be discussed by members of the Borough Council’s Economy, Environment and Place Scrutiny Committee. Cabinet has passed both matters to the all-party committee so they can put forward their views on the high profile issues.
Cllr. Stephen Sweeney, Deputy Leader of the Council who is responsible for both car parking and the market, said: “We recognise how important both of these things are to the future vitality and well-being of Newcastle town centre. Cabinet members have already come up with a number of options which we believe will make a positive impact in both areas but we felt it was vital that other councillors were also able to play a part in helping to shape policy development on these matters.”
The scrutiny committee – which is chaired by Cllr. Gary White – will consider both topics at their meeting on 13 December.
As far as parking is concerned, Cabinet members have already agreed a raft of changes which they hope will protect reducing car parking income, while at the same time supporting the town centre economy and encouraging visitors into the heart of Newcastle.
These changes include: Introducing a flat rate charge of £1 for all of the Council’s town centre car parks after 3pm, Free parking after 3pm on late night shopping nights in Newcastle in the run-up to Christmas, Free parking from noon to 8pm for the Christmas Lights switch-on, Establishing short-stay pay and display in the spaces at the front of the former Civic Offices in Merrial Street, Bringing in a flat rate charge of £1 from April 2019 for bank holidays, Promoting the sale of parking permits to medium to large size businesses and organisations with a minimum 20 employees, Promoting pay by phone and also exploring – following consultation with partners – the possible introduction of “pay on exit” arrangements for The Midway, King Street and Goose Street car parks.
Whilst these are already making an impact, scrutiny members will be asked to begin shaping the development of the 10-year parking policy for Newcastle town centre. Cabinet members hope to have this agreed and in place by next summer. Meanwhile, a review is taking place with stakeholders to help revive the fortunes of the market now that it’s staying under council management.
An online survey is proposed by the Council asking people for their opinions on the market and there will also be a review of current working practices.
Cllr. Sweeney said: “It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to come to an agreement with Market Place Management Ltd to take over running the market. The previous administration at the Council believed the market being operated and managed by a third party provider gave it the best possible chance of prospering while reducing its costs, but unfortunately this hasn’t worked out as planned despite the very best of intentions on both sides, and the option to outsource is no longer a viable option.
“Newcastle-under-Lyme is an ancient market town – it has been built around the presence of a bustling market for almost 850 years. Decisive action needs to be taken to secure its long-term future and support the town centre as a shopping destination. We’ll be consulting a range of people on how we can take this matter forward and secure the future of our market. The scrutiny meeting will be one aspect of this important work. Creating vibrant town centres in Newcastle and Kidsgrove where everyone can live, work, shop, study and spend their leisure time is one of our corporate priorities and that’s why it’s so important we get both of these issues right as they are key factors in delivering on that priority.”