By Emma Bertenshaw [email protected]
Customers are being driven away from a popular shopping area because of recently-introduced parking charges, say shop owners.
The charges have been in place since the middle of last month at Buganvília Plaza near Quinta do Lago.
What was formerly a free parking area has seen barriers erected, charges introduced and guards put on patrol, all of which, say shop owners, are driving customers away.
Richard Paxton of Richard Paxton hairdressers at Buganvília Plaza told the Algarve Resident that tenants at the centre have arranged a meeting with Loulé mayor Seruca Emídio for Tuesday, November 22 to try and find out what can be done.
He also said that some businesses and residents in the complex have signed a petition to either have the parking charges removed or to find a better alternative.
“It’s like a ghost town here,” said Richard Paxton. “They have employed guards who spend all day watching over a completely empty car park.”
Businesses receive one free car space each, leaving employees to search for available free space further afield.
There are still a few free car spaces around the nearby Quinta Shopping centre but because of the paid parking, these are now in high demand.
Loulé Concelho Global, a council company, is responsible for running the parking and opened the new paid facility on October 17.
In the current “low” season (October to March), 15 minutes costs 10 cents and an hour costs 50 cents between 9am and 8pm on weekdays and 9am and 3pm on Saturdays.
During the peak season (April to September) charges apply until midnight.
Loulé Concelho Global told the Algarve Resident that they held meetings with the management of both shopping centres and that the need for paid parking was in response to an increase in demand, in particular because some spaces were occupied all day.
They decided that introducing paid parking would make use of the space more efficient as before the majority of parked vehicles (more than 80%) would remain there “all day” leading customers away due to lack of parking.
The Algarve Resident asked Loulé Concelho Global whether they had received complaints and they said that “customers have responded favourably as shopping in the area has become easier and speedier” but had had some complaints from businesses particularly from “employees upset that they now have to park 50 metres away”.
“This system, whose purpose is to allow better circulation of people and vehicles, is used throughout Europe and the prices are representative of economical standards,” said a spokesman for Loulé Concelho Global.
He also said that meetings were now being held with the management of both shopping centres to discuss the possibility of creating dedicated parking spaces for their customers.
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