When people choose to travel 50 miles to do their shopping.
From Horsham’s The Resident newspaper –
“I only really come to Swan Walk [Horsham’s shopping centre] to go to M&S. I go to Bluewater if I want to go shopping. The parking charges in Horsham don’t help.”
As you can see below, it is 49.8 miles from Broadbridge Heath to Bluewater.
This should, ordinarily, be considered an incredible, even extravagant, distance to go for ‘regular’ shopping.
But given the way our transport infrastructure is configured, it’s not so absurd. By car, the journey takes less than an hour. Factoring in the hassle of using a car in the first place, the extra time taken for the journey – 40-50 minutes longer than the time it might take to drive into Horsham and park up – is not so great an inconvenience. Naturally enough, parking your car in one of Bluewater’s 13,000 spaces is free, unlike the cost of a space in Horsham. Finally, there is, of course, the greater choice offered by Europe’s largest shopping centre, compared to the retail on offer in a town of 55,000 people – although whether this extra amount of choice accounts for the anonymous Broadbridge Heath resident’s decision to do nearly all her shopping in the former is doubtful.
What is interesting is that cost of parking in Horsham is now frequently described as ‘extortionate’ – especially so now that it is set to rise by between 20 and 50% in the next month or so. These claims of ‘extortion’ are somewhat overstated, given that people are quite at liberty to do their shopping elsewhere, where parking is cheaper, or indeed in places where parking is free – even places 50 miles away. This is indeed one of the arguments given against Horsham District Council’s decision to raise the charge – that it will simply drive shoppers elsewhere. This is an option shoppers would not have if they were genuinely the subjects of extortion.
Of course, many trips into Horsham have to be made; going elsewhere is quite obviously not an option if you have to visit a particular shop, or if you work here. The word ‘extortion’ is therefore revealing when it is used to describe the cost of parking for these kinds of trips, because it plainly suggests that people feel they have no choice but to park in Horsham’s increasingly expensive car parks.
The distance from Roffey, Horsham’s most distant suburb, to the town centre is 2.5 miles. Broadbridge Heath – where the anonymous Bluewater shopper lives – lies outside Horsham’s ring road, but is barely 2 miles from the town centre. Walking these kinds of distances, which may take up to an hour, is not particularly feasible, especially so if one is laden down with shopping.
There are buses available for these trips, but the cost of a ticket is similar to, if not greater than, the cost of parking – a spontaneous trip into town from Roffey and back again, for instance, will cost you £3.60.
The one remaining option, if you don’t wish to subject yourself to the extortionate cost of Horsham’s car parks, is to make these reasonably short trips by bicycle. Two or three miles is an eminently possible distance for anyone, and unlike the bus and car, a bicycle is free. It also provides a convenient way of carrying your shopping.
It might be instructive to consider the reasons why it’s not leaping out at Horsham’s residents as an obvious way of escaping the extortionate cost of the town’s car parks.