Campaigners are readying themselves for battle with Bath and North East Somerset Council after the Liberal Democrat-run authority confirmed plans to extend parking charges throughout the area.
As part of its budget plans for next year, B&NES has announced plans to introduce parking charges at all of its off-street car parks which are currently free of charge. This means that the proposals could affect local areas including Midsomer Norton, Chew Magna, Paulton, Peasedown St John, Radstock, and Wellow.
The news is likely to spark outcry from local residents and traders, as well as opposition Conservative councillors, who have warned the plans could have a damaging effect on the local economy. Conservatives have pointed to the fact that the Council’s own budget report admits that the plans could reduce the number of visitors to affected areas and could push cars onto nearby residential roads.
One of the largest car parks which would be affected is Midsomer Norton’s South Road car park. Conservative councillors have already been campaigning against the possibility that parking charges could be introduced in Midsomer Norton after a recent council paper indicated this could be a possibility.
Midsomer Norton councillor Barry Macrae (Cons, MSN North) said:
“Only a few months ago local traders presented a petition to B&NES signed by over a thousand people calling for free parking to be retained. Yet now Lib Dem B&NES is pushing ahead with these plans and ignoring the concerns of traders and residents. Free parking benefits our town by encouraging visitors to shop here and allows people to browse the High Street without having to keep one eye on the clock.”
Fellow Councillor Michael Evans (Cons, MSN North) added:
“B&NES is flying in the face of local opinion and the recommendations of the Government’s Portas report, which supported free parking as a way of helping local High Streets. The Council will have to put more resources into the administration and enforcement of new parking charges for a relatively small financial gain. We will be backing local traders in opposing these plans.”
Another of the area’s car parks which could be affected is at the rear of the Pelican pub in Chew Magna. Cllr Vic Pritchard, whose Chew Valley South ward neighbours the affected area, said:
“Village shops rely upon local trade and people being able to stop off nearby and park for free. Otherwise people will drive further afield to supermarkets with free parking. It would be hugely damaging to Chew Magna if the Council brings in parking charges here, and I know that local residents and traders will be aghast at the idea. The Council should be helping local shops, not hitting them with more charges.”