BUSINESSES in Yarm have given the thumbs up to recent changes to parking on the High Street.
Parking is free for one hour but in October Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council introduced a new maximum stay of three hours, with no return within three hours.
The changes were brought in in response to a petition from 88 businesses in Yarm High Street with the aim of freeing up more spaces as too many were being used by people parking there all day.
And the effect they’ve had so far has drawn a positive response from members of the Yarm Business Forum (YBF), including the owner of one of Yarm’s oldest shops.
“I’m seeing customers I haven’t seen in years,” said Stephanie Holt, owner of the Strickland & Holt department store that’s been trading since 1854.
“Now if you fancy a coffee, to go out for lunch or do some shopping in Yarm you know you’re much more likely to get a parking space and this benefits all the shops, cafes and restaurants – everyone is buzzing a bit more.
“The parking changes have really helped businesses like ours to get customers both new and old to visit the shop and keep returning. This was a real help at Christmas but the momentum has carried into the New Year.
“But we do still need long stay parking and that’s the next most important thing so people who do want to spend a day here can do so.”
YBF’s Joint Chair, Steve Ashman, added: “We had a really positive meeting this week and the general feedback was that parking is a lot better. It’s much easier for people to find a space and traffic on the High Street is flowing more freely.
“When people like Stephanie are saying they’re seeing customers return who haven’t shopped in Yarm for years, then that really means a lot. It’s the best kind of intel we can get really.
“So our message to anyone who’s been put off coming by the parking over the years is please come back. There’s nothing you can’t get in Yarm – get a tattoo, sort your tax return out, have a meal or drink, or even borrow a book from the library.
“We’re making great progress. Yes there’s still work to be done to improve parking but we are working with the Borough Council to make it better. We see this as ‘thumbs up’ to phase one, with phase two well under way.”
Parking on Yarm High Street is only £1 for three hours, or motorists can park for free for one hour then pay £1 to extend their stay for the following two hours.
Meanwhile, the Council is in negotiations with landowners about potential sites for long stay parking that would also help Yarm High Street.
Councillor Mike Smith, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “We introduced these parking changes at the direct request of businesses and following a public consultation and we’re hugely encouraged by how they are going.
“But we know it’s still not ideal and that it could be better, which is why we’re getting on with delivering additional long stay parking to service Yarm High Street. It’s been a very tough nut to crack but we are in negotiations with landowners about potential sites for long stay parking and are now at an advanced design stage.
“Due to commercial sensitivities, we can’t reveal any more details for now but we desperately want to help Yarm be successful, as is the case with all of our town centres.
“The recent Christmas lights switch-on was a major hit – attended by thousands of folks who had no issues with parking access - and a great example of what can be achieved when we all work together positively.”