Saturday, June 22, 2024

‘We’re not paying £2.50 to look in a couple of shops!’

Must read

Parking charges at Ashford Designer Outlet have been raised so “unnecessarily” high that shoppers say they will now think twice before visiting.

Bosses at the McArthurGlen-owned site have increased fees for the second time in less than two years – with the lowest available now set at £2.50 for four hours.

New parking charges have been introduced at Ashford Designer Outlet, sparking anger among shoppers
New parking charges have been introduced at Ashford Designer Outlet, sparking anger among shoppers

The complex, which has more than 100 stores following a £90m extension in 2019, was originally free for visitors when it opened in March 2000.

It then charged shoppers for the first time in February 2004 at a rate of 50p for two hours.

After this changed to £1 for up to four hours, the outlet then doubled the charge to £2 in June 2022.

However, less than two years on and the shopping centre has increased these charges again to £2.50.

Those wishing to stay longer than this will have to pay another £2.50 for a further four hours.

How Ashford Designer Outlet compares with other shopping centres in KentHow Ashford Designer Outlet compares with other shopping centres in Kent
How Ashford Designer Outlet compares with other shopping centres in Kent

In contrast, shoppers can park for free at Bluewater and Westwood Cross shopping centre in Thanet.

The money generated from outlet shoppers will go towards McArthurGlen – a private company whose headquarters are in London.

When asked why it has increased its fees, a spokesman for the company explained: “The change was necessary to align with inflationary increases to costs, including staffing cost for traffic management, as well as to accommodate maintenance and ongoing enhancements to our parking facilities.

“It’s important to note that our rates remain great value compared to those in the town centre and the wider competition.”

But the company’s decision has not gone down well with many outlet visitors.

Parking fees at Ashford Designer Outlet have risen to £2.50 for four hoursParking fees at Ashford Designer Outlet have risen to £2.50 for four hours
Parking fees at Ashford Designer Outlet have risen to £2.50 for four hours

Little Burton resident Jayne Owen says she doesn’t understand why the attraction need to increase fees.

“It does feel quite cheeky,” the 66-year-old said.

“Most of the people who go there during the week are probably local, and, like we all do, will go in their favourite few shops and that’s it.

“So I don’t understand why it’s up to four hours you have to pay for.

“But either way, the new charges will have an adverse effect on the number of people visiting in my view.”

Under its current parking rules, the centre is free after 5pm from Monday to Sunday.

However, Hemraj and Junita Kambang, from South Ashford, say they will be visiting the site less now following the price hike.

Mr Kambang, 50, said: “Increasing it to £2.50 is too much and just quite unnecessary.

“I understand inflation is going up and shops have to think about rent, but the outlet was managing before the increase.

“Prices in the shops there have increased too.

“The outlet isn’t the type of place where you just go to buy clothes – you go there to eat and for people to take their children too.

Jayne Owen says the move to increase fees is “cheeky”Jayne Owen says the move to increase fees is “cheeky”
Jayne Owen says the move to increase fees is “cheeky”

“Normally, we go there once or twice a month and sometimes take friends with us in the car.

“But now we will go less often, and, when we do go, not hang around for a while.

“It takes a long time in a lot of shops to buy things, so prices need to be more attractive for people and businesses.”

Brookfield Road’s Kerri Hodson insists she doesn’t understand why the centre needs charges anyway given its footfall.

The 35-year-old mum said: “If you’re going to go there to spend money on clothes, what does that money for parking even go towards?

Junita and Hemraj Kambang say they will not visit the outlet as often nowJunita and Hemraj Kambang say they will not visit the outlet as often now
Junita and Hemraj Kambang say they will not visit the outlet as often now
Ashford Designer Outlet is now home to more than 100 shopsAshford Designer Outlet is now home to more than 100 shops
Ashford Designer Outlet is now home to more than 100 shops

“I just don’t understand why the price has gone up again.

“Parking anywhere in Ashford is expensive and on bank holidays the whole town is just gridlocked anyway.

“The outlet does offer free parking after 5pm, although that’s one of those things which isn’t advertised well enough.”

Lower High Street shop owner Geoff Mathews, whose business Soundcraft Hi-Fi has been running since 1962, doesn’t believe the higher rates at the outlet will encourage more people to park in the town centre.

At the Dover Place and Vicarage Lane car parks, Ashford Borough Council charges 65p for a 30-minute stay and £1.30 for one hour, £2.60 for two hours, £3.90 for three hours and £5.20 for four hours.

Geoff Mathews of Soundcraft Hi-Fi store in Ashford’s Lower High StreetGeoff Mathews of Soundcraft Hi-Fi store in Ashford’s Lower High Street
Geoff Mathews of Soundcraft Hi-Fi store in Ashford’s Lower High Street

Mr Mathews, 72, said: “I don’t think the outlet’s decision is going to impact the high street in any way.

“Perhaps people may park in a town centre car park now instead and walk there – of course us shop owners would welcome that.

“It would be nice if more people passed through on their way to the outlet if they decided to park in a town centre car park, but I don’t think that will happen because parking is an issue for many people across Ashford.”

The new outlet charges, which came into effect on March 25, will not affect blue badge holders and those wishing to stay for up to 30 minutes who can continue to use the site for free.

Will you still visit the Designer Outlet? Comment below

Latest article