More than one million people AVOIDED shopping in central Milton Keynes last year, the Citizen can reveal.
The number of shoppers who visited centre:mk, intu Milton Keynes and Xscape during 2015 was down almost three per cent on the previous year.
Disappointing December footfall figures revealed the largest decline in city centre shoppers for five years, prompting concerns from retail bosses.
This week MK Conservatives pledged to build a multi-storey car park in CMK to solve the city’s parking crisis, which they claim is driving shoppers away.
In a New Year announcement, the Tory council group said shoppers and employees are “calling out” for the council to offer more affordable parking.
They promised to set the wheels in motion within 100 days of the election – if they take control of the council in May.
But Melanie Beck, head of MK City Centre Management, does not believe lack of spaces is the problem.
Instead she says increased parking prices are driving shoppers away from CMK – as well as a reluctance for change.
She said: “The economy was up this year so people have been spending money, but there has been an increased shift towards online shopping.
“MK shoppers are used to free or very cheap parking and this council keeps putting prices up and shoppers are kicking against that.
“However, retail is fast-moving and unfortunately we are in an environment where planning applications for any kind of change to the city centre is being objected. I agree they have to be the right kind of changes but this behaviour is killing the city centre.”
The total footfall for CMK last year reached almost 45million. While there were 73,000 fewer Christmas shoppers than in 2014.
Conservative group leader Edith Bald believes the council must do better.
She said: “We will tackle this problem head on starting with a pledge to get a multi-storey into planning.
“Our pledge will ease pressures in CMK whilst also looking forward to more sustainable longer term solutions.”