A SHOPPING centre manager has warned of a “footfall wipe-out” for town centre shops unless the council extends its cut-rate parking fees indefinitely.

Tony Wilkes, the manager of the Brunel Centre, is urging Swindon Council to extend the scheme, which saw parking prices more than halved in September – from £4.80 to £2 for a four-hour stay.

He said that since the rates were introduced the number shoppers at the centre has improved by seven per cent – from 17 per cent down year-on-year, in September, to 10 per cent down so far in December.

“We will be meeting with the council before the scheme ends on January 10 to urge them to continue it for at least 12 months,” said Mr Wilkes.

“My prediction is that if they were to end this deal shopper footfall at the Brunel would return to 17 per cent down in January – and no one wants that.

“The council needs to understand that the climate has changed, there is now more competition out there with the Orbital and the Outlet Village.

“They must recognise that to improve people’s spending parking rates must remain realistic.”

The good news, he said, was that although the number of Christmas shoppers in the centre had bottomed out by 10 per cent since 2008 the total revenue remained the same, meaning fewer people were spending more.

He said: “If the council were to remove these improved tariffs it would cause a wipe-out in January.

“In fact we will be asking them to improve the deal to encourage more families – we would prefer it to run from 9am to 4pm instead of 10am to 4pm, which is the way it is currently.

“I believe that will improve parking from Monday to Friday.

“At the moment the fourth and fifth parking levels are empty – that improvement should fill them up.”

Phil Young, Swindon Council’s cabinet member for culture, regeneration and economic development, said parking figures have improved from 80,034 motorists parking up at Brunel North, Brunel West and Fleming Way car parks in September, to 90,553 in October and 96,484 in December.

However, he added that the council does not have data from previous years to compare because older machines, which did not hold similar data, have recently been replaced.

He said: “This is fantastic news, it’s great that the reduction appears to be working. This evidence definitely gives us something to think about before January.

“I think these statistics underline our strategy, meaning that if you give someone a four-hour ticket for about the same price as an hour long stay, they will spend more time and money in the town centre.”

He said there is little chance the scheme will be extending beyond Brunel North, Brunel West and Fleming Way car parks.