A plan to introduce ‘pay and display’ parking in Market Rasen has been delayed while the district council considers a 2,600-signature petition - but the move comes as the town’s ‘free parking’ signs are covered up by the authority.
West Lindsey District Council’s prosperous communities committee has deferred a decision on a proposal to charge for car parking in Market Rasen.
Councillors said more time was needed to consider a 2,633-signature petition calling for the council to scrap the plan.
The council will consider the petition on July 4 before making a decision on July 19.
But despite this delay, WLDC officers have already instructed county council highways workers to cover any ‘free parking’ signs.
Market Rasen Mayor John Matthews, who has previously spoken out against the proposed charges, said: “What are WLDC up to? Even before the discussion whether or not to implement charges in our town has come to committee, officers of the district council are doing their own thing.
“The signs at the entrance to the Festival Hall car park used to display ‘free’ above the vehicle logo.
“Somebody has issued an instruction to have stickers made and then instructed another to put them on the signs to cover up the ‘free’!”
WLDC wants to charge people to park in the town’s John Street, Festival Hall and Kilnwell Road car parks, saying the scheme will generate additional income and increase the turnover of car parking spaces.
The petition against the charges was set up by local businessman Adrian Campbell who believes the council needs to do more research before bringing in pay and display.
Mr Campbell has described the latest developments as ‘slap in the face for democracy’.
But WLDC insists free parking will not be scrapped until councillors have voted on the proposal - and that
WLDC says ‘free’ signs were covered due to ‘substantial demands’ on highways workers.Its chief operating officer Mark Sturgess said: “West Lindsey District Council’s prosperous communities committee deferred a decision on charging for parking in Market Rasen on Tuesday night (June 7).
“This decision was made to enable the council to consider a petition, which has been submitted on the matter.
“The petition is due to be considered on July 4, following this it will be brought before the prosperous communities committee on July 19 to reconsider the paper on this subject.
“In preparation for the potential charges, the council made enquiries to the highways department at Lincolnshire County Council about updating the signs.
“Due to the substantial demands on this department, this work needed to be scheduled into their work programme, and it is understood this work was carried out in May.
“We would like to reassure residents that free parking in Market Rasen is still available – and no changes will be implemented before elected members have made a decision on this matter.”
Residents and traders fear parking charges will ‘kill off’ Market Rasen, with people deciding to shop elsewhere in the county.
WLDC had planned to have ticket machines in place by the summer.
It is estimated ‘pay and display’ parking would generate an additional £50k for the council.
But the scheme would cost £65,000 to put into action.
And there would also be an ongoing annual £31,000 cost to cover things like enforcement, operating and maintenance costs.
Charges would range from 30p for up to one hour to £1.95 for six or more hours, and there would be free parking after 3pm.