Feb 1 2012 by Judith Tonner, Airdrie & Coatbridge
MONKLANDS traders have welcomed news of the u-turn on the proposed introduction of controversial car parking charges.
Last week’s Advertiser revealed how North Lanarkshire Council’s ruling Labour administration had dropped their too-expensive plan to charge motorists between 20p and £13 to bring vehicles into towns.
Business owners had vehemently opposed the plan – even though council leader Jim McCabe had championed it as a method of freeing up shopping spaces currently occupied by commuters and workers.
Traders are delighted by the removal of the charging threat, which they feared would have diverted customers to free retail parks; but say it must be followed up by steps to improve town centres.
Graeme Johnston, who owns Ferguson’s Butchers on Buchanan Street in Airdrie, described scrapping the charges as “good, commonsense.”
“I’m very pleased; our staff took time to send an objection and in three days we had the support of 200 customers.
“It’s about the finances of the council rather than the general public, but charges would have decimated the town centre.
“This decision means we’ll have a level playing field with out-of-town facilities.
“It’s very good and encouraging for traders and the public, but I’d particularly hope the opportunity would be taken to regenerate the town centre as supermarkets coming into the area can draw people out; we need to make it buoyant.”
Martin Harris of Broomknoll Street clothes store Mr H was also among the dozens of traders opposing the plan, and said: “The council has seen sense.
“Everyone in the whole of Airdrie was opposed to this so dropping the charges can only help – it’s a step in the right direction.
“I don’t think customers would have come into the town centre if they’d had to pay; they would have gone straight to shops with free parking.”
Eleanor Wallace, the owner of Airdrie Card Shop on Graham Street, is concerned that the charging proposal will rear its head again in the future.
She said: “I don’t think the council has scrapped this, they’ve put it on hold and I think they’ll certainly revisit the issue if they’re re-elected after all the bother they’ve gone to in building new parking for the health centre.”
Abddal Hamid’s business at Airdrie Grain and Health Foods on Hallcraig Street is directly opposite the Hallcraig Street car park which is currently being doubled in size.
He said: “This decision gives me hope for the town centre.
“Everybody’s blood pressure has been through the roof for six months worrying about the effect charges would have on their businesses.
“Now we need more shops in the town centre to show people why they should come to Airdrie; the Antonine Centre in Cumbernauld has increased footfall and regenerated the whole area, and we need people to sit up and take notice of Airdrie in the same way.”