Car park charges will drive shoppers away, say Thornbury traders

THORNBURY’S business organisation says shoppers will abandon Thornbury if South Gloucestershire Council brings in plans to start charging motorists to park in the town.

The Thornbury Chamber of Commerce launched an online survey to gauge reaction to the idea after the council’s cabinet said it was one of the ways under consideration to cut a £7.7 million funding gap.

And it says the response was “overwhelming”, with more than 2,000 people responding – and nine out of ten people saying they would stop shopping in the town if the charges go ahead.

The chamber is calling on the council to reconsider the plan and look at “alternative revenue generation methods”.

South Gloucestershire Council runs off-street car parks at five sites in the town: Castle Court (long and short stay), Park Road, Rock Street (long and short stay), St Mary Street (pictured above) and Thornbury Leisure Centre, with a total of more than 880 spaces for cars, coaches and motorbikes.

Chamber of Trade chair Aimee Winter-Tuck compiled a report on the online survey the group carried out after it was revealed that charges would be in the council’s draft budget for next year.

Her report said: “The majority of individuals…more than 90%, have indicated that they will cease using Thornbury shops if parking charges are implemented.

“Furthermore, serious concerns have been raised regarding access to essential services, such as GP services and baby hubs, if parking fees are introduced.

“General practitioners have written to disclose their serious concerns over health inequality for low income families trying to access basic healthcare services.”

Aimee said every single one of the online forms submitted to the chamber’s survey – all within a 24-hour period – was against the plan for charges.

People said it would have a “negative impact” on their daily lives and the local economy.

The report said if people stopped using the shops, “this could potentially have a detrimental effect on the local economy and lead to a decline in business for local retailers, which we have already witnessed during the High Street and car park resurfacing work”.

Charges for people who rely on their cars to access essential services, particularly those with young children or mobility issues, raised “severe concern for health inequality”.

People responding to the survey said parking charges would be “an unfair additional financial burden on residents who are already living in financial crisis”.

There were also fears that charges would discourage people from visiting the town, “impacting its already fractured community spirit”.

The report also raised concerns about people parking in streets outside the town centre and walking in to avoid charges, with possible effects on road safety and congestion in residential streets.

Citing the “overwhelming opposition and serious concerns” expressed by the public, the chamber is urging the council to reconsider the idea of charges and look for alternatives, with the report concluding: “The large number of document submissions expressing strong opposition to the proposed car park charges, along with concerns about their impact on local businesses and access to essential services, underscores the need for a thorough revaluation of this proposal.

“The council should prioritise the well-being and interests of its residents, while seeking sustainable solutions for funding without causing undue hardship.”