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Frome shoppers faced with parking charges hike

A RISE in parking  charges in Frome that caused outrage when it was announced in January has now come into force – causing concern for local business owners. 

Earlier this year Frome Times broke the story  of the increase, with residents and councillors saying the increase could have been avoided and the town will suffer.

All parking tariffs have now been increased by 10p for the first hour. Thereafter the tariffs have increased by 20p.

Drivers who just need to stop and call into a shop will have to pay 60p for 30 minutes and staying for two hours in Cork Street  was increased to £1.40 from the previous £1.20.

Philippa Kaye owner of Absolutely Fabulous Costume Hire in Frome said, “It is concerning in what is already a difficult economic time for everybody. We have seen footfall in the town drop and businesses will now suffer as a result of the recent parking charge increase.

“The temptation to shop out of town, online or even in a different town altogether will increase for many people. We need to encourage people to come to Frome as it has a lot to offer, not force them away with increased parking charges.”

Neil Howlett from Frome Chamber of Commerce said, “Frome Chamber of Commerce regrets Mendip District Council’s decision to increase car parking charges for the second time in two years without having completed a consultation process. We understand the budgetary pressures facing Mendip District Council (MDC), which is why we put forward proposals which would enable MDC to increase revenue without increasing charges.

“We will continue to work with MDC to make it easier for visitors to find the right car park for them, better signs to tell them what there is in Frome and time limits that will give them time to see them. ‘Pay by Phone’ will help that, but people need to be able to extend their stay when they discover more to do, which at present they can’t.   Our first target is to help MDC use the £10,000 the Chamber negotiated from Asda to implement the recommendations to improve signs to their car parks in the report MDC commissioned from RTA Associates in 2008.

“We hope that next time MDC think they need to increase revenue from car parks they will have a consultative process with interested parties before they make a decision – that way they may find they don’t need to increase charges.”

A statement from Liberal Democrat councillors said, “The number one thing that bugs the people of Frome in the town centre is the parking charges. With the recent planning approval for Asda, they have even more reason to shop out of town and get free parking.

“We don’t want people being put off to go in and shop. We would rather see 1,000 people pay a pound than see 500 pay two pounds.

“Mendip should provide more cost effective long-term parking for people who work in the town centre so that streets on the periphery of the town centre are not crammed full during work hours.”

Readers have also been sending in their views on the parking charges increase. Comments included; “By getting the first hour free it may encourage more people to come into the town centre”; and, “The physical state of some car parks leaves much to be desired, especially at night and when we have had heavy rain, and so this proves that the monies collected from parking are not used for the upkeep of them.”

Mel Usher, leader of Frome Town Council said, “In Frome, car parking is still a big business for Mendip, generating over £400k in income. It’s noticeable that very little of that is spent on maintenance.

“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.”

A statement from Mendip District Council said, “Fees and charges form an integral part of the budget setting process, which in turn relates to the Council’s priorities.

“The council is faced with challenging savings over the next few years; the maximisation of income from its assets can assist the council with its savings requirements and provide support to other front line and statutory services. The proposals impact upon all the Council’s corporate priorities, in particular business development and growth.

“Pay & Display charges were last reviewed two years ago and increased primarily to reduce the pressure on the council budget as a consequence of national increases in VAT and NDR.”

For more information and the full list of parking charges visit: http://www.mendip.gov.uk.