Ending free parking in Market Rasen “would be the death of the town,” councillors were told this week.
But as West Lindsey District Council reviews whether or not Market Rasen should keep its free parking, council leader Jeff Summers told the Rasen Mail, he wants free parking to stay.
Councillors fear that Market Rasen could lose its free parking- something seen as essential for the Portas Town to attract shoppers to its high street.
District and town councillor Ken Bridger warns the district council may not be able to afford to continue with free parking, especially as it faces budget constraints.
Fellow district and county councillor Burt Keimach says Gainsborough is “jealous” of Market Rasen having free parking, as it is the only town in West Lindsey to have it.
The issue flared up at a meeting of Market Rasen Town Council last week when members heard Lincolnshire County Council had sent it a letter telling it to remove the free parking signs on approach roads to town as they don’t meet certain standards.
But the meeting last week felt a bigger issue was at stake- free parking itself.
“At the moment I have emails going back and forth about parking charges. WLDC do pay rates for the car parks and they are quite expensive and these costs have to be covered,” said Coun Bridger.
“Gainsborough have been stirring it up saying Market Rasen has got free parking, but I told them, Gainsborough have a leisure centre, they have a theatre, what have we got - free parking.”
Coun John Hadlow added: “Is it the wording (of the signs) they do not like or is it the free parking?
“We had a meeting here a little while ago and WLDC said they did not like the signs and I said ‘was it the sign or the free parking’ and all I got was a smile.
“Doing away with free parking in Market Rasen would be the death of this town.”
Deputy Mayor Martin Harvey added: “If WLDC decide to charge for parking there is nothing we can do to stop them.”
West Lindsey District Council is due to decide on parking charges in October.
After last week’s meeting, Coun Bridger told the Rasen Mail, Market Rasen faces “a battle” to keep free parking and he and other councillors would pursue how to keep it.
Fellow Market Rasen district councillor Burt Keimach also pledged to do “all I can” to keep free parking, adding “Gainsborough is jealous as they have to pay.”
It would be “penny-wise and pound-foolish” to remove free parking, he said, as Market Rasen would lose a lot of business.
Council Leader Jeff Summers agreed, saying his “personal view” is Market Rasen should keep free parking to encourage shoppers to visit the town.
“If you start putting charges on, it will deter people from shopping and doing business in the town. We are trying to invigaporate the town centre,” he told the Rasen Mail.
Coun Summers said West Lindsey does not make money from parking and though he was not involved in the ‘discussions’ officers are having on charges, he will have a “firm stance” when the matter comes before councillors.
Equally firm is Sara Scott, chair or MR BIG, who says free parking is “essential to the health of the high street.”
“If there was a threat to our free car parking, we would of course be vocal in support of retaining this key benefit to shoppers,” she said.
Coun Owen Brierley, chairman of West Lindsey’s Prosperous Communities Committee, confirmed a review of charges is underway.
“As part of this process the council routinely considers the charging regime for all car parks, including those at Market Rasen, where there are currently no parking charges. No decisions have been taken on any of the fees and charges at this stage,” he said.