LOCAL store owners have welcomed a radical new Tory plan designed to boost the number of shoppers going into town centres.

 

The plan, devised by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, would allow shoppers to park on double yellow lines for up to a quarter of an hour.

 

Mr Pickles believes the extra minutes of parking grace would help revive UK high streets.

 

Under the scheme, wardens would not hand out fines to anyone nipping into a store or parking on double yellow lines for less than 15 minutes.

 

Mr Pickles believes parking attendants are far too eager to hand out fines, while town halls increasingly use parking as a revenue raiser.

 

Rocketing fees for legal parking have also been cited as reasons for the exodus of shoppers from town centres, leaving deserted high streets and the advent of 'ghost towns'.

 

Mr Pickles said in May he was looking at ways of making it easier for shoppers to park in local roads.

 

Between 2000 and 2007, average parking fees leapt 40 per cent from 86p for two hours to £1.21.

But researchers have demonstrated that even a small rise in the cost of parking can lead to a significant drop off in visitors to shops.

 

Parking fines are capped at £70 outside London, and £130 inside the capital.

PK Patel, who runs a store just off Kilburn High Road in northwest London, said: "I definitely like the 15 minute idea. People would be far more likely to nip into a store if they know they won't get a ticket.

 

"Something needs to be done. People often want to drive to a local store but parking costs and restrictions make that harder and harder. This idea is as good as any I have heard."

 

However, the plan has put Mr Pickles on a collision course with Coalition colleague Norman Baker, the Lib Dem transport minister, who has branded the scheme as 'unworkable', saying it would encourage congestion and put more motorists off than it encourages.

 

Mr Baker said: "The idea of actually having cars parked for a very long period of time on a double yellow line actually undermines the purposes of the yellow line and I'm advised it's unworkable. They are there for a reason, often for a safety reasons."

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