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Cirrus Design Studio Ltd has offices in Dorset and Exmouth, Devon. I say office, it's me, the developer, who is rarely permitted to deal with such activities as meeting clients! That's for my partners - for me it's a quiet life of coding and that suits me best!
Recently on a local forum there was a post regarding the potential rise in parking charges being proposed by East Devon District Council - the authority looking after the beautiful town of Exmouth. Exmouth, in case you are not aware, aside from being the birth place of Captain William Kyd the infamous pirate is a beautiful seaside town located at the mouth of the river Exe south of the city of Exeter. It has a superb little town centre and a vast array of small and quite often independent shops. For it's size I would go as far as to say we seem to have more festivals than most seaside towns and there's always something on. The local flower brigade who run the towns award winning Britain in Bloom flower displays are excellent and in general the town is a peaceful, pretty and dare I say thriving resort in the very heart of Devon.
Recently work has begun on a fantastic water sports facility with shops and cafes right beside the beach on Exmouth seafront - a very popular haunt for water sports people like myself!
Recently a wise old council owl proposed a move that could begin the decent into oblivion of our beautiful town. In many towns across the UK the same thing has, will or has already happened. The evil spectre of car park charges!
Locally there is a move underway to sting people an extra 50% for the privilege to park in Exmouth and shop in the town centre.
Now this doesn't effect me of course but does it? Our business is in Dorset not Exmouth so how does this move effect Cirrus? Well, it's a twisted set of interconnecting fate wires that will effect us all because small changes like this unless thought through start like rising damp and before you know it you've either a hugely expensive repair bill or worse still a total collapse!
Town centre shops are increasingly under pressure from online retailers, high rent, high taxes and add to the mix BREXIT and you have all the ingredients to make local traders seriously consider giving up. Once gone you'll just have charity and phone shops in the town but how could this begin?
Raising parking charges discourages users from "just popping into town" so they begin to seek alternative methods. Let's face it, even your food can be delivered to your door so why even got to town? Online retailers today are under pressure to deliver product if not same day then next and some council decisions like raising prices play directly into the companies hands who can offer delivery that fast.
Town centres throughout the UK already have a vast amount of boarded up shops as shoppers prefer either online or visiting the city. Local towns, small towns are already feeling the pinch and Brexit will squeeze even harder creating more online choice, more online shops and cutting deep into the mainstay of the small town centres like Exmouth.
In come the local authorities with their ill conceived, unthought through and careless rise in parking charges! Rather than a full 50 car car park at £1 each they drive it up to £2 each and get 25 less cars but the same money - that's clever really but hold on - that's 50% less customers for our high street shops! No more "just pop into town now" but more, let's pop to the city OR let's pop online. Either way, the small high street shops start to suffer because their once loyal costumers start finding different ways to buy what they need.
So eventually less money starts flowing from local business resulting in rate increases, increased fines for illegal parking (a direct result of parking charges hikes) and you guessed it - increased parking charges AGAIN!
The ultimate result of this blinkered approach is a dead town centre and the UK has a lot of those.
Yes there is! The local authority can now employ MORE traffic wardens because there will likely be an inevitable rise in illegal parking as people try to save a few quid parking on the back streets. Perhaps the fines can make up the shortfall in lost parking charges when people don't bother to park in the car parks?
Increasingly people are isolating themselves as it becomes even harder to meet people unless your'e glued to social media. Town centres used to be our hubs for social activities. A place we took our goods, our money, to buy and sell stock, to meet people, friends and to be entertained. The incessant need for greed has started the rot removing that last bastion and the original social media from our town centres. Once that dies - we don't get it back.
Footnote: A little old lady I met in town once told me she comes here to just sit and watch people, all different people, coming and going, shopping, drinking coffee and milling about. Once that's gone where does she and her kind go for the sake of a few extra quid?
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