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Issue 296 – Campaign for free car parking in Frome

FROME Chamber of Commerce is launching a campaign urging Mendip District Council to provide free car parking in the town.

The chamber believes that the lack of free car parking is hindering Frome’s ability to compete economically with other nearby towns, such as Trowbridge and Warminster where there is free parking.
Martin Short, president of the Frome Chamber of Commerce said, “We had a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce retailers group recently and it is strongly felt by the retailers that we need to lobby Mendip District Council to provide at least one hour’s free car parking in their car parks.
“It’s fair to say that all the retail businesses are quite pressed at the moment. For Mendip District Council to increase car parking charges would hit trade quite badly and could possibly result in some retailers going out of business.”
Martin Short said that in his view, charging for car parks only discourages shoppers from visiting Frome.
“It’s very important for businesses to be given every opportunity to promote their services,” he said. “Mendip District Council could be supporting businesses rather than penalising them. The council needs to understand how important the provision of car parking is to trade in the town.”
Mendip District Council has revealed a list of revised charges in its Frome car parks which will take effect from 26th April.
In some car parks charges are decreasing, but in others they will rise, and new charges are being introduced. There will still be no free car parking provision in any of Mendip District Council’s car parks. Martin Short said that the Chamber of Commerce would be writing to Mendip District Council urging them to reconsider, and consulting with traders across the whole of Frome to gauge opinion.
Local traders have backed the chamber’s calls to provide some free parking. David Chedgy, who runs Ellenbray toy shop said, “I think that Mendip District Council should give us two hours’ free parking in view of the economic climate at the moment. We’ve got to push the positive, Frome has a lot to offer over and above other towns, but we need a level playing field. Other towns nearby all have a free car parking provision. In this economic climate anything that draws people into town is a benefit.”
David Chedgy pointed to research by the New Local Government Network which concluded that car parking charges drove consumers away from towns if there were free car parks nearby.
Jon Harold of Auto Care Frome, said, “Do they not realise our car parks are already empty? How are they going to get more money from cars that are not there?
“I don’t know what good they’re doing for Mendip. It’s obvious from the number of empty shops we have that customers won’t drive into Frome because of the lack of free parking, they’ll go to Trowbridge and other towns that do have free parking.
“If we had free parking we’d develop a better range of shops, one goes hand in hand with the other.”
Jon Harold said that he believed the best answer for Frome would be to make all the council car parks free, and employ traffic wardens to make sure no-one abused the system.

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