I've been travelling a lot lately so I haven't been popping into Manchester city centre quite as much as normal. However, I took my friend to see The Vagina Monologues at the Palace Theatre last Wednesday, and I was shocked to find that the controversial new parking regulations that Manchester City Council proposed some time ago, have indeed come into effect.
From 8am to 8pm Monday through to Sunday, there is no longer any free street parking in Manchester centre. Metered parking and single yellow line restrictions used to end at 6pm on week nights, and be free from 12 noon Saturday and through to 8am Monday morning. But no more. And on the meter we found closest to the theatre, it was over £5 for just 2 hours of parking.
Manchester City Council are claiming that the new charges help reduce congestion and free up parking spaces for more people to park where they need to to access shops and so on. Quite frankly, that's a load of tosh. And the charges are going to make it pretty much unfeasible for people like me, who live in the outskirts of the city, to afford to use many of the wonderful diversions Manchester offers in the early evenings and over the weekend.
Which ultimately means that local businesses and those that can reap revenue from that early evening slot will suffer. Not to mention the impact this will have for weekend business.
No real alternative
I'd be more than happy to use decent public transport if there was any. However, the public transport system in Manchester pretty much only exists in any decent form for those who live in the south of the city and in Studentsville. Live in Tameside like me, and you're practically buggered from being able to access decent public transport.
For example, the last train I can get back from Manchester to the station closest to me is at 8.30pm - can you believe that? And there isn't even a route on Sunday. As for the bus, it's around a 30-40 minute journey one way, plus extra time for walking. Not that I would want to make the 15 minute walk back home on my own at night, either.
I have always been keen to venture into Manchester in the early evenings to dine at restaurants, watch films at our local independent cinema Cornerhouse, and support local arts events. But now? If I was to come into Manchester three times a week, I'd likely be spending at least £15 in parking. It's just not affordable for me.
So - I'm now expecting that I will have to miss out on some of the activities and events that I used to enjoy because I can't afford to park, and my car is the safest way for me to usually travel into the city centre. I'm not prepared to risk the 'fight bus,' nor endure a journey of almost 3 hours home and back (when it's a 15 minute drive), therefore it looks like I'll have to be socially excluded from what's going on in the city centre.
I see this move as a very bad one. Manchester City Council have been very short-sighted without a real consideration of the detrimental impact on local business, tourism and on local people.
If you feel as strongly as I do about the new parking charges for Manchester, please do make your views known and complain to Manchester City Council.