Free parking could be coming to Woodley under Lidl schemeBy Jon Nurse
February 13, 2013
Shoppers could park in Woodley precinct for free with another supermarket working on a ticket refund system.
Plans from Lidl in Headley Road to reimburse customers using its neighbouring car park are being warmly welcomed after fears that trade could be drawn away from the town centre when M&S Simply Food opens.
Employees at Lidl are negotiating with Wokingham Borough Council to operate a system similar to Waitrose in Crockhamwell Road, which refunds 70p on car parking for every £10 spent in the store.
Town centre manager Jacques Lherbier, speaking at a Woodley Town Centre Management Initiative (WTCMI) last meeting, said: “Lidl has been trying to put something in place to refund two hours parking.
“When this is in place it would mean most people coming into the town centre would not have to pay for car parking. Everyone would benefit and that would be wonderful.”
Negotiations between Lidl and the borough council, which runs the Headley Road car park, have been held up through agreeing on practicalities of guaranteeing the refunds, as the two-sectioned tickets used by Waitrose are not printed by the Headley Road ticket machines.
Car parking charges were defended by highways boss Councillor Keith Baker last month, explaining that footfall in the town centre was actually on the rise.
But some WTCMI members are worried about the arrival of M&S Simply Food in Shepherds Hill later this year, which could draw footfall away from the precinct as parking is expected to be free.
Traders raised the issue of town centre parking charges at the last WTCMI meeting, suggesting a cheaper 15-minute ticket for people wanting a quick trip for tasks such as visiting the bank.
They reported they see many cars stopping where they shouldn’t to drop off people as they don’t want to pay for a 50p for a 30-minute ticket.
Woodley Town and Wokingham Borough Councillor Kate Haines said: “I understand what they are saying but it would be tough to police for 15 minutes.” Mr Lherbier shared his scepticism with the current 30-minute tickets, stating his preference for people to stay longer to shop rather than be hurried into quick visits.
A LIDL spokeswoman said: “Lidl UK remains committed to providing our customers with free parking at the Woodley store. There have been ongoing discussions between Lidl and the council to establish how we can bring free parking to customers and we are optimistic that a solution will be found.” The spokeswoman added it was not possible yet to advise on parking limitations, timescales or the impact of other retail initiatives in the area but assured customers a was being worked on.