A petition signed by over 1,100 people has been presented to councillors in Bath and North East Somerset calling for parking in Midsomer Norton to be kept free of charge.
The petition, which was organised by the Midsomer Norton & Radstock Chamber of Commerce and received the backing of local Conservatives, was presented to a B&NES Full Council meeting last Thursday, 13th September.
The petition was organised in response to a recent report by Liberal Democrat-run B&NES Council which said the authority would be looking into the possibility of bringing in parking charges at free car parks outside of Bath. Presenting the petition, Chamber representative Sarah Ford urged councillors to reject any proposal to introduce parking charges in Midsomer Norton, arguing that it would damage trade in the town.
Conservative councillors have backed calls to keep free parking in Midsomer Norton, and last week pressed the Lib Dem Cabinet Member for Transport, Roger Symonds, to justify the Council’s claim that parking charges have little or no impact on High Street trade. In response, the Lib Dem Cabinet Member claimed that the use of parking charges can actually benefit retail trade and increase footfall by encouraging turnover.
Councillor Michael Evans (Cons, Midsomer Norton North) commented:
“We are giving our one hundred per cent backing to calls for free parking to be kept in Midsomer Norton. Hopefully the petition organised by local traders will demonstrate the strength of feeling amongst residents and businesses on this issue.
“Despite the Lib Dems’ claims, there is a lot of evidence to support free parking. The Government’s Portas report on supporting High Streets called for free parking, and this was backed up in a recent survey by Confused.com which revealed that 65 per cent of consumers are put off from shopping locally by expensive parking charges. We will continue to argue our case to B&NES and press the Lib Dems to commit to maintaining free parking in Midsomer Norton.”
Cllr Chris Watt (Cons, Midsomer Norton Redfield) added:
“The idea that introducing parking charges can actually increase local trade in Midsomer Norton, as B&NES has suggested, simply beggars belief. It shows that the Lib Dems running B&NES have lost the plot and simply have no understanding of the needs of Midsomer Norton. I’d love to know if this is what Labour councillors had in mind when they handed the Lib Dems the keys to running B&NES at the Guildhall last year.”