On 18th April, I blogged about Direct Line's dodgy statistics, which claimed that average car parking changes in Darlington were an incredible £3 for 2 hours. I rang Direct Line to challenge their statitistics (which made Darlington apparently the 19th most expensive place to park in the country), and ask how they came by their numbers?
To be fair to the media team at Direct Line, they were unfailingly helpful, and I have been told that because "Upper Archer Street charges a set fee of £3.50 per day (or £14 per week) ... drivers will be charged this fixed rate rather than a hourly fee and it seems this is bringing up the overall cost of 2hrs parking to £3 in Darlington."
With a lot more science, we have calculated the average cost of 2-hour parking in Darlington, based on the cost in our short- and long-stay spaces. (I have the breakdown if anyone wants it). The actual figure is £2.22. If you do the figures to include the Cornmill and Sainsbury's (where parking is free) then the total is £1.73 for two hours parking.
In reality, most people who want to park for 2 hours do so in a short stay car park, where they are charged just £1.80 for up to 3 hours.
Of course, Direct Line got their bit of regional media exposure, and moved on. It's left to local councils and traders to pick up the pieces after misleading bits of research like this have done damage to the reputation of a town centre. I would hope that next time, the local press report stories like this with a lot more circumspection.