Council could cut free parking for late night Christmas shopping in Lancaster

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Plans to significantly reduce car parking provision in Lancaster and reconsider free parking in the run-up to Christmas have raised concern among city centre businesses and venues.

Nelson Street car park is due to close early next year with the loss of 105 spaces and it has now been revealed that a further 400 car parking spaces could be lost at St Leonard’s Gate.

It has also been confirmed that Lancaster City Council has still to make a decision on whether to offer free parking to shoppers using council car parks on Thursday evenings and Sundays in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

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Lancaster BID, which represents many city centre businesses, has only recently become aware of the proposals and is asking members for their views.

Lancaster city centre.Lancaster city centre.
Lancaster city centre.

“Lancaster BID is very concerned that these proposals highlight the complete lack of a coherent parking strategy for the city centre with the potential for significant impacts for businesses,” said a BID spokesperson.

Once BID has received responses, it plans to lobby Lancaster City Council and other key partners on its members’ behalf.

“We have spoken with a small number of businesses which will be most heavily impacted and confirmed very low levels of awareness of the proposals. We are sharing this information to ensure all city centre businesses are aware of the planned changes.”

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Although Lancaster BID already knew of plans to close Nelson Street car park so homes can be built on the site, the news that this was only one part of a wider plan to vastly reduce city centre parking provision was a surprise, they said.

Nelson Street car park which will close in early 2024.Nelson Street car park which will close in early 2024.
Nelson Street car park which will close in early 2024.

There is particular concern about the loss of spaces at St Leonard’s Gate as part of the Canal Quarter Masterplan owing to the serious impact it could have for neighbouring venues, including the Grand and Dukes theatres.

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This space also provides the only designated coach parking in the city centre.

News of these proposals comes at a time when city centre car parking has already been reduced with the closure of Castle Car Park owing to structural surveys taking place.

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This car park, previously known as Parksafe, is now operated by Lancaster City Council under a long lease and there’s no timescale for when it might reopen.

Coun Nick Wilkinson, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, skills and digital innovation, said: “I welcome Lancaster BID’s commitment to working with the city council on developing a strategic response to the city’s off street parking facilities. Doing so is a key component of the Canal Quarter development and one we are acutely aware of the need to address.

“The masterplan, which was subject to extensive consultation and a wide range of stakeholders and the public, including Lancaster BID, does propose a reduction in public car parking spaces on the site over the next three to 10 years.

“However, as a part of the wider transport work, noting that the county council are responsible for transport infrastructure, we will be looking at the overall parking situation in Lancaster. This will include looking at parking need in the city centre for the future. I fully intend to engage with local businesses as a part of this work.”

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Lancaster City Council confirmed that a decision on whether to provide free parking this Christmas is yet to be made and before doing so, they would welcome a conversation to establish what impact it has had for BID members in previous years.

The spokesperson added: “With reference to the Castle car park, the level of occupancy has traditionally been low but we are working on a plan for a partial reopening and will update again very soon.”