A campaign run by Cornwall and Devon Media Group, which publishes the papers West Briton, Cornish Guardian and Cornishman wants to help promote town centres by encouraging people to use them. This initiative is to be welcomed and I hope it will really encourage more people to use the town centres. Cornwall Council is supporting this campaign by allowing ‘free’ car parking in some of its car parks on the 29th February.
The way the free parking works is you will have to buy one of this week (23rd) papers I mentioned before. Inside those papers are a voucher which you will have to display in your car on the 29th February to receive free parking. It also only covers certain car parks (All Helston and Porthleven car parks are included). There is however a long list of excluded car parks. My advice is to check before you park and leave your car, as you will more than likely receive a parking penalty if you parked without a voucher, in a commercial vehicle, or in an excluded car park.
I have two problems with the Cornwall Council side of this offer.
The first one is why Cornwall Council is giving preferential treatment to one group of commercial papers. It would have been far better to offer this deal to all the local papers in Cornwall. These other papers have at one time or another have run campaigns to help town centres. Furthermore this could be seen as Cornwall Council putting other papers at a commercial disadvantage, and helping to increase the profits of one company over another. Is this right for a council to be doing this? I feel a council when dealing with any news organisation (and business) should be equally fair to all.
The second one I have is many car parks are excluded. This could lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Confusion and/or misunderstanding might lead to a parking fine, which will ruin anyone’s day, especially if they thought it was free! After all, the council is not technically losing any revenue because it is a leap year day. Maybe it would have been far simpler to just say it is free in all car parks for one day? Sometimes I think the council struggles with the concept of keeping it simple.
I do believe any campaign that encourages people to use a town centre is good; if Cornwall Council is involved it should be treating everyone equally. If the other papers turned down the offer to take part then that is fine. However, other papers where not asked at first which is a mistake (though some other papers are now printing vouchers).
Maybe the only way any campaign will work is everyone working together. In this case important parties have been left out. I hope these left out parties do not take it personally……