A leading figure in the former Market Rasen Business Improvement Group (Mr Big) says West Lindsey District Council has become ‘the biggest threat’ to High Street businesses.
Ex-Mr Big director Darren Lince was speaking out over WLDC’s controversial decision to introduce car parking charges at the town’s John Street, Festival Hall and Kilnwell Road car parks.
Mr Lince, who owns the Advocate Arms Hotel in Queen Street, said: “Whilst involved with Mr Big we did try and work with WLDC, and it is such a shame that the local authority set with a mandate to improve the town become the biggest threat to my business, and my colleagues on the High Street.”
“This will without a doubt, lead to loss of sales, which will result in numerous redundancies and closure of businesses, and we will soon reach a High Street spiralling downwards, resulting in less customers, less sales etc, and at this point WLDC will change their minds as the ‘experiment’ has failed and re-introduce free parking.
“However, at this point shopping behaviour will have changed and they will have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to resuscitate the town that they have killed off.”
The district council’s Prosperous Communities Committee sparked a wave of protests after deciding to implement charges ranging from 30p for an hour to £1.95 for six or more hours.
But the committee chairman has defended the controversial decision.
Coun Sheila Bibb said: “The issue has been carefully considered by several committees and meetings, council workshops, and many ideas, opinions and feedback.”
She added tough decisions had to be made - and that the decision would be reviewed in six months.
Mr Lince went on to say: “As a business owner in Market Rasen and a former director of Mr Big I was devastated to hear that the decision had been made to introduce car parking charges.
“What made it worse was just how little research and potential gain the local authority believe that they can realise.
“Free parking has been re-introduced in many other cash-strapped local authorities like Alford in East Lindsey, and in Brigg for example there is a two hour free parking scheme in place as the paid for parking resulted in such a major drop in sales in the town centre that North Lincolnshire Council were forced to abandon the idea after a period of pain for shoppers and retailers alike.
“Indeed, it looks like Market Rasen will be one of the smallest (if not the smallest) paid for parking in the country after excluding seaside towns and small towns with a specific tourist attraction.”
Mr Lince said evidence from other towns where paid-for parking had been introduced suggested a decline of income to businesses of around 20 per cent.
He said it was not clear what the turnover of Market Rasen High Street was, but that a turnover of £5m would see a decline in sales of £1m-plus.
And Market Rasen town mayor Coun John Matthews has also criticised WLDC’S decision, branding it as an ‘atrocity’ and saying committee members had made a ‘grave error of judgement’.
Coun Matthews said the district council had ignored the feelings of the town’s residents after more than 2,600 people had signed a petition against the charges.
Mr Lince added: “WLDC have been presented with a huge list of signatures for such a small town and do not have the support of the town council but they are just doing it anyway.”
The petition was set up by businessman Adrian Campbell and gained 2,633 names.