Market Rasen residents are demanding changes to controversial car parking charges in the town amid claims the policy is driving people away and causing independent businesses to suffer.
That was the message from a town meeting on Saturday (June 10) when more than 30 residents and business owners expressed their concerns about West Lindsey District Council’s decision to introduce charges last January.
The meeting, chaired by deputy mayor Stephen Bunney, was arranged by Market Rasen Town Council which wanted feedback ahead of talks with WLDC yesterday (Tuesday).
Coun Bunney made it clear charges were ‘not just a Rasen issue’ and that views from people living in surrounding villages were welcome.
Residents claimed the charges – introduced at the end of January – had acted as a deterrent to shopping and visiting the town.
There were concerns people were using supermarket and private car parks to avoid charges, and that the charges were ‘unjustified’ due to Rasen’s small number of facilities.
Resident Peter Sargent, of Fir Park, said: “We need to look at making Market Rasen a destination.
“People are being charged to come and stay here but asking visitors to pay for the small amount of facilities on offer is not helping the town.
“When are we getting some of the facilities that Gainsborough has?”
Gail Dennis raised a concern over what she described as a potential ‘disability issue’ with the parking machines.
She said: “These machines are tiny and the keypads are hard to read, particularly as the numbers get worn away over time.
“People will be finding it very difficult to use them, and it’s excluding an entire section of the community.”
Many residents were shocked to hear of a reported 11 percent drop in footfall at The Advocate Arms since the charges were introduced.
Cooplands area manager Nicola Roe also spoke about the impact the charges were having.
She said: “The staff have worked really hard over time to drum up business...but we are now down on money.
“The customers who do come are saying they visit less often because of the charges.
“It has had a detrimental effect on the Cooplands branch in the town.”
Coun Bunney argued that increased parking was having an impact on road safety near the primary school.
He said: “The car parking at the bottom of Gordon Field, above the library, has got worse and is very dangerous.
“This is not helped by the school run - parents were encouraged to park in the car parks and walk their children to school - but those car parks now have charges from 8am.
“Now there are cars all over on that very bad bend (near the school) - which needs to be put right.
“We really need to go back to having general, free and open car parks.”
County councillor Lewis Strange, who previously owned a restaurant in Brigg which he said was ‘killed off’ when charges were introduced there, spoke of the need for ‘compromise’.
He suggested that could come in the form of two hours’ free parking.
Some residents spoke against Coun Strange’s idea and called for free parking to be fully reinstated.
Ironically, Saturday’s meeting was drawn to an abrupt close when one resident had leave as her car park ticket was about to expire.
Eve Fawcett–Moralee Economic and Commercial Growth Director at West Lindsey District Council said: “The council said it would review the car parking charges six months after they were implemented - we are on track to do this.
“We would like to thank Market Rasen Town Council for the work they have done gathering feedback from the local community.
“This information can be reviewed as part of own review of car parking charges.”