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Traders furious over plans to increase parking charges across Hambleton district
FURIOUS traders have warned plans to increase parking charges by up to 100 per cent will drive shoppers out of struggling town centres.
One leading shop, Lewis and Cooper, says it will seriously consider moving out of Northallerton if charges are doubled across Hambleton district.
Neville Huxtable, leader of Hambleton District Council, has admitted it is planning to increase charges from next July, but could not say by how much.
Bettina Bell, retail director of food, wine and hamper business Lewis & Cooper, said: "If what we have read is true and that level of increase were to be implemented, we'd have to seriously consider moving out of the town centre to where people didn't have to pay to park.
"There are already too many things stacked against independent high street retailers – including the recession, the internet and out-of-town retail parks."
"We know that loyal customers who travel from further away are coming less often, citing existing parking charges as the reason."
Bedale, Stokesley and Thirsk would also be affected.
Coun Huxtable said the council had made no secret of the fact it intended to increase charges in 2013.
"It was clearly stated as being the plan when charges were introduced and repeated in the Conservative manifesto last year,” he said.
“Parking your car in Hambleton is cheaper than anywhere else in North Yorkshire and any increase we decide to levy will still keep Hambleton the cheapest.
"Charging for car parks ensures a good turnover of vehicles and is therefore good for the local economy."
Drivers in Northallerton and Thirsk currently pay £1.50 for long stay and 40p per hour for short-stay parking. In Stokesley, the charges are £1 for long stay and 20p an hour for short stay. In Bedale, motorists pay 50p for any length of stay.
Shop owner Marcus Grover warned that Northallerton High Street is already in crisis following the introduction of parking charges three years ago.
He added: “Northallerton High Street is in crisis and that has been brought about by customers being in fear of parking fines and the inconvenience that they now face through pay and display parking.
"Any increase on these charges will massively impact on the sustainability of our town centre. It is making it a less attractive shopping destination.”
The charges currently bring in around £500,000 a year, but there are concerns there will be a serious shortfall in the government grant to Hambleton next year with the authority facing a half a million pound black hole.
But it’s understood the plan to increase charges dramatically has caused a rift in the authority’s controlling Tory group with some members calling for money to be used instead from the council’s £20m reserves.
The row has exploded just days before business and retail leaders in Northallerton are due to meet to set up a forum to promote and support the town.