Council contemplates parking charges for Midsomer Norton?

Bath and North East Somerset Council could be considering the introduction of parking charges in Midsomer Norton, according to a newly published report.

According to papers published for the Council’s Planning, Transport and Environment scrutiny committee, the Liberal Democrat-run authority is reviewing the provision of free parking outside of Bath, with the possibility of new charging under consideration.

The news has raised alarm bells amongst Midsomer Norton’s Conservative councillors, who have vowed to fight any proposal which would prove damaging to town’s economy.  Conservatives have argued that providing free parking in town centres helps support local businesses and High Street traders, pointing to the recently published Portas Report to support their case.

Councillor Michael Evans (Cons), whose ward of Midsomer Norton North includes the town’s High Street said:

“The Council could not be choosing a worse time to consider the introduction of parking charges in Midsomer Norton.  With the economy struggling and local High Streets fighting for survival, the Council should be doing whatever it can to support our town centres, not undermining them.

“Local traders are already facing the possibility of having to compete with a large new Sainsbury’s in Westfield, and the idea of introducing town centre parking charges will only add to their worries.  If the Lib Dems try to force this upon Midsomer Norton, we will certainly oppose them vehemently.”

Fellow Conservative councillor Barry Macrae (Midsomer Norton North) added:

“This flies in the face of evidence presented by the Government-backed Portas report into supporting our High Streets, and is the opposite of what many other councils are doing.  Only last week South Gloucestershire Council voted to keep free car parking, recognising its importance to encouraging shoppers and visitors.  Our High Street has to stay competitive against these other areas.  And it’s not just Midsomer Norton.  This report is talking about reviewing free parking in all areas outside Bath.”

The Council report on parking charges is to be discussed by the Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, 26 July, from 2pm.