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Frome Town Council leader calls for car parking charges rethink

THE leader of Frome Town Council is calling for a rethink on car parking charges by Mendip District Council. 

In a letter to Frome Times, Mel Usher calls for the complete rethink on car parking charges following the announcement in late December that the district council is to review parking. The Frome Town Council leader is expecting an increase in charges at the next Mendip cabinet meeting which he believes will have a detrimental effect on the town.

Cllr Usher said, “I see the question of Mendip’s car parks is hot on the agenda again. Perhaps whether charges should rise is less important than the fundamental question of their purpose.

“The need for car parking was appreciated when motor vehicles first became popular. Odd bits of land were used but mainly parking was on the street. Post-1945, the demand  became more obvious and in the cities many bomb sites were used on a temporary basis. Charging became popular and lucrative, multi-storeys were built. In some places charges were used to encourage the use of public transport, to reduce congestion and to prevent silting up by non-shoppers.

“In Frome, car parking is still a big business for Mendip, generating over £400,000 in income. It’s noticeable that very little of that is spent on maintenance.  But why is charging so contentious?  It’s obvious that somewhere along the line we have lost the plot.

“Indeed car parking charges instead of  encouraging  growth and prosperity now make the town less attractive for short and long stay users  alike. Car parking always  figures highly, and negatively,  in any survey about the  town centre.

“Town centres are changing fast;  in the face of web-based shopping we will have to rethink their function and appearance;  they will have to become places where people come  together  to be surprised, to celebrate as well as to shop.

“Usage will be optional and everything possible will have to be done to make the town centre attractive and above all, welcoming.

“I don’t expect Mendip to suddenly make all parking free overnight, they are stretched financially. It is said that car parking charges support many “core services” across the district. However it is essential that we start the debate on the best mix of usage, charging and timing.

“What doesn’t make sense is assuming that the past is an indicator of the future and  hiking charges without any thought about how the town centre functions is yesterday’s thinking.

“On the 19th December Frome Town Council  asked Mendip to review the situation around car parking. We have had no reply although I wearily  expect that the new charges will be imposed at Mendip’s Cabinet meeting.”

• What do you think?Write to Frome Times, c/o Absolutely Fabulous, 20 Bath Street, Frome. BA11 1DJ or email news@frome times.co.uk