There has been an angry backlash after parking charges were introduced at Wigan’s popular Robin Park leisure centre and arena.
Shoppers struggling to find anywhere to leave their vehicles on the adjacent retail park because of current building work and the axing of spaces by a third have been spilling over into the vacant ones outside the leisure facilities in recent months.
Parking charges have been introduced to ensure all customers of Robin Park Leisure Centre and Arena are able to park and use the facilitiesCouncil spokesperson
But now they are facing charges of £2 for up to two hours and £4 all day if they want to leave their cars there.
Anyone using the arena and leisure centre can get a refund. Members of the leisure centre and other facilities run by Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles will also get free use via an annual pass.
The leisure trust, which runs the Wigan Council-owned sites, says it has moved to protect its customers.
But not everyone has reacted well.
Jean Wells from Pemberton said: “It’s been an absolute nightmare at the retail park for months now as they build extra shops there and not just because there’s traffic coming at you from every angle. It’s also now much harder to find a parking space so I’ve been taking to parking in one of the spaces near the arena and sports centre and walking through.
“Now they have slapped a £2 charge on these spaces, just like they did on people wanting to give blood at the DW Sports gym down the road. One of the nice things about out-of-town retail is that it usually avoids hitting people in the pocket to park. Well I’ll just taken my custom somewhere else now.”
David Smith, from Whelley, who regularly uses the leisure centre, said: “I am glad they have introduced the parking charge from a personal point of view because it has been much harder to find a space because of Robin Retail Park shoppers using them. I do think this will have an adverse effect on shoppers though.”
A spokesperson for Inspiring healthy lifestyles said: “Parking charges have been introduced to ensure all customers of Robin Park Leisure Centre and Arena are able to park and use the facilities.
“All customers using our facilities will be refunded when they present their car parking ticket at reception while customers with memberships will receive a free annual parking permit.
“Over the last couple of months we’ve seen an increase in the number of people using the car parks in front of the Leisure Centre and Arena who aren’t using our facilities.
“With new leisure and retail outlets already on site as part of the retail park and new ones planning to open in the not-to-distant future we have acted now to protect our customers right to park.”
Work is currently under way at the retail park to build premises for Costa Coffee, Subway, Carphone Warehouse and EE.
The existing Carphone Warehouse premises are being converted into a KFC drive-thru.
In all about a third of the parking spaces will be lost. Further spaces will go with the planned redevelopment of the leisure park near the cinema which includes the construction of a new Nando’s.
The leisure centre and arena land is council-owned, but the spokesman said that the revenue from the parking charges will go to Inspiring healthy lifestyles to pay for the installation and maintenance of the machines.
The spokesperson said the trust wanted to emphasise that “this is a process to ensure customers have the best experience possible when they use Robin Park Leisure Centre and Arena.”