Plans to increase car parking charges in Keynsham will deal a devastating blow to High Street businesses, Conservative councillors say.
It follows controversial proposals tabled by the Liberal Democrats, who run Bath and North East Somerset Council, to increase car parking charges in Keynsham by as much as 50%.
Keynsham’s Conservative councillors are opposed to the plans, which the Lib Dems say are needed in order to prevent people from using their cars.
But the Conservatives fear that increasing car parking charges will make it less attractive for people to visit the town centre, resulting in local businesses being negatively affected.
The charges will also contribute very little to tackling the climate emergency, especially as cycling options are limited and cuts are being made to public transport.
Cllr Brian Simmons, Conservative councillor for Keynsham North on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “Yet again the Liberal Democrats are working against the interests of residents and businesses in Keynsham.
“The Lib Dems claim the increased charges are necessary to make people think twice about driving their cars. But the job of a local councillor is not to save the planet. It is to champion the interests of local people in order to ensure the communities they represent are able to flourish.
“Of course we need to take action to tackle the climate emergency. But increasing car parking charges in Keynsham will contribute nothing to that goal. It will serve only to inflict a devastating blow to High Street businesses that are already struggling to survive.”
The plans will see a two-hour stay at Ashton Way, Ashton Way East and the Civic Centre go up from 40p to 60p. This, the Conservatives say, is particularly bad for people who wish to go into town for a quick visit to use High Street services.
Keynsham’s long stay car parks will also see hikes, which include a 10-hour stay increasing from £2.10 to £3.
It follows the recent debacle of the Keynsham High Street improvement works, which since being completed earlier this year have resulted in numerous people tripping and falling over the uneven road surface.
Allan Sinclair, one of the Conservative Group’s candidates for Keynsham North in next year’s local election campaign, said: “These increases in car parking charges cannot be justified and must be stopped immediately.
“They will hurt local businesses and will not do anything at all to encourage people to use alternative forms of transport.
“We have seen how the Lib Dems have mishandled the High Street renovation work, resulting in people being hospitalised with serious injuries. Now they want to charge people even more money for using the same High Street.
“The administration recently appointed a new Cabinet member with responsibility for economic development. It’s a pity this new Cabinet member hasn’t had the courage to point out to his colleagues the devastating economic consequences these parking charge increases could have on Keynsham – or maybe he has, and they simply don’t care.”
Earlier this year, the Lib Dem administration tabled similar plans to introduce car parking charges in Midsomer Norton. The plans were shelved after the Conservative Group led a campaign against the charges, claiming local businesses would suffer as a result.
The Conservative Group is now calling on the Lib Dems to recognise the strength of feeling in Keynsham and drop the plans before unnecessary harm is inflicted on the local economy.
Full details of the changes can be read here.