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Issue 307 – Parking charges are here to stay

Despite bold warnings from traders that high parking charges in Frome could spell the death knell for Frome’s town centre, Mendip District Council is standing by the increase in charges it has imposed.

The district council’s cabinet reviewed the recent changes to parking charges at a meeting on Monday 9th August, deciding to make only one minor alteration in Frome.
Mendip District Council has decided to reintroduce parking for longer stay visitors to the South Parade car park, between the hours of 9.00am and 4.30pm. No other changes have been made in any of Frome’s six other car parks managed by the district council.
The district council’s car parks working group has reported that two months after the new tariffs were introduced, the usage in all bar two of the car parks, Badcox and South Parade, has increased.
A cabinet report states, “The ‘all day’ parkers in Frome are migrating from Cattle Market to Merchants Barton and North Parade. The turnover in the shorter stay car parks has increased both in number of users and revenue but the exceptions to this are Badcox and South Parade.”
However this is little consolation for local traders who say that the charges are crippling town centre trade.
President of Frome’s Chamber of Commerce, Martin Short said, “We are still very concerned about the level of car parking charges in the council controlled car parks in Frome.
“It may well be the case that the Market Yard car park has been used more over the last three months but other car parks in the town are still very much under used and the traders in the town are still feeling the impact of the public’s reaction to the new tariffs.
“We still have a situation in the town in which many car parking spaces are not being used during the day because shoppers are preferring to go to out of town supermarkets which have free parking and to neighbouring towns such as Westbury, Warminster, Trowbridge, and Bradford On Avon which have either free parking or lower car parking charges, and the Frome traders are finding it very difficult to compete with this.”
At the meeting on the 9th August, cabinet members were briefed on the findings and recommendations of the car parks working group. The group’s report states, “Whilst a considerable amount of feedback had been received from the public, there is always resistance to change when new car park prices are implemented.”
At a meeting of the East Mendip Community Partnership on Tuesday 3rd August, the Chamber or Commerce presented the councillors with a petition signed by 600 customers complaining about the current car parking charges.
Martin Short said, “It is clear to the Chamber of Commerce from our members that customers are still being put off from coming into the town and the chamber had asked Mendip District Council to see what could be done to bring in at least some element of free car parking – even if it was half an hour or an hour in car parks, to help to attract customers into the town.
“Certain district councillors said at the meeting that car parking charges are not set in stone and the chamber would like Mendip District Council to keep the charges under review.”

South Parade car park

Now that the district council has reintroduced long stay parking at The South Parade car park, it will now cost £4 to park there for up to four hours, or £5 for the whole day (though disabled users can park for free between 9.00am and 4.30pm).
The cabinet report said, “The arrangements in South Parade were put in place to allow each space to be sold for local residents’ permits. All permits have been sold but the usage of this car park is significantly lower than expectations.
“The residents who hold permits for this car park are very happy with the arrangements but local businesses and traders feel that this car park is now unavailable for their patrons whilst being empty during the day. Disabled visitors to this area of Frome have found the two hour maximum stay to be restrictive.”

Ways forward

Mendip District Council says it will continue to review the car parking charges. The last two meetings of the East Mendip Community Partnership have focussed on the car parking charges in Frome.
Claire Hudson, chair of the East Mendip Community Partnership told the Frome Times, “We had an excellent car parking discussion at the East Mendip Community Partnership in June when Vision for Frome facilitated the discussions. Lots of ideas were generated and compiled into an excellent paper that has been submitted to Mendip District Council for consideration.
“At Mendip’s most recent car park working group the members were reviewing the changes made to the charging system earlier in the year, and took all views about parking in South Parade into account, and are changing the charging system there again. The East Mendip Community Partnership /Vision 4 Frome document has not yet been fully discussed by the car park working group, but I am confident it will be in due course.
“In the meantime however, the East Mendip Community Partnership discussed parking again at its August meeting, and came up with two car parking items we will take forward and discuss in more detail at our September meeting; these are providing an element of free parking for half an hour in designated bays in the town centre for people who want to nip in and out, and the possibility of providing a special permit or voucher system, at low cost, to enable people to park in town centre car parks for a specified period of time. I am sure it will be a really interesting discussion and hope local people will come along and give their views.
“As a Liberal Democrat opposition councillor I am committed to working with local community groups and residents to find the best ways of charging for parking in our car parks, but obviously can only make recommendations to the Conservative Cabinet at Mendip. I hope this will change next May, with a Liberal Democrat administration taking charge and implementing fairer parking charges.”