Verity boosts Ilfracombe parking figures
More than 3,000 extra visitors have flooded into the car parks of a North Devon town compared with the year before – many of them drawn to it by the Verity effect.
Figures show 241,921 people have used car parks in Ilfracombe since October last year when Damien Hirst's statue arrived in the town.
This compares with 238,614 the previous year, according to figures from North Devon Council.
An extra 2,052 people used the car parks in October 2012 compared with October 2011.
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Year-on-year an additional 2,320 people used the car parks in November 2012 and the biggest increase was in May 2013 when an extra 2,505 parked in the town.
There were several months in which figures were less than the previous year, but this still resulted in an overall increase. However, this year's figures are more than 17,000 down compared with 2010/11.
But district councillor Philip Webb said the numbers were still encouraging.
"This is a fantastic result for Ilfracombe as we have managed to reverse the downward trend seen nationwide in the number of people using paid car parks," he said.
"My opinion is that this is due to a number of factors: firstly visitors coming to see Verity, secondly the largest ever programme of events we have put on to attract visitors this summer and, of course, the brilliant weather.
"Ilfracombe is without doubt on an upward trend and people from all walks of life have made positive comments to me about this."
Ellen Vernon, economic development manager at North Devon Council, said: "Parking numbers have been falling for some time, not just in Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, but most places in the UK. This reflects the recession and the increased costs of fuel and owning a car, with car ownership also dropping.
"What these latest stats show is that the parking numbers in Ilfracombe also fell from 2011 to 2012, reflecting this national picture.
"However, since the arrival of Verity towards the end of 2012, the numbers appear to have started to rise again.
"It's also important to highlight that our car parks' charging period changed in March 2012, reducing from 10am to 9pm to 8am to 6pm, so the parking figures from different years aren't really comparable.
"For example, there will have been visitors parking on the Pier from 6pm who are no longer captured in the stats.
"Therefore, we believe that there are even more visitors driven in by Verity than these latest figures are able to show."