Marchers demand Shropshire car parks U-turn - with video and pictures
Protesters took to the streets to demand that controversial new parking charges for Shropshire towns be dropped.
They claim planned changes will force most motorists to pay more – and that it will be businesses across the county that will end up suffering.
The march in Shrewsbury on Thursday was organised by former town mayor Jane Mackenzie, who was joined by the Mayor of Ludlow Tim Gill and representatives of other towns and villages.
Armed with placards, they made their way from the Quarry to the bottom of Wyle Cop where they blocked the zebra crossing.
Shropshire Council is currently running a consultation, which is due to end on June 21. It wants to increase the cost of most car parking in the county, with parking restrictions being extended and the popular Pop and Shop scrapped.
The demonstrators were cheered by shopkeepers and motorists tooted their horns in support.
Councillor Mackenzie said: “We need to let Shropshire Council know how the people feel about this hike in prices which could kill business in the town.
“It is a tax on the people of Shrewsbury –- we are being hit with a massive increase in car park and on street parking prices.
"We responded to the council consultation with a resounding NO to the increases, but we have been ignored. Our only course of action now is a direct public protest to get the message across."
Tim Gill said he was pleased with the turnout and added: “Shrewsbury and Ludlow are being penalised by the introduction of these charges because they know our towns are cash cows.
"What is depressing is that in the decisions no account had been taken of the economic impact on traders.The affect these charges will have on footfall has been totally ignored."
Tom Memery, development director of Omega: The National Association for End of Life Care, which is based on Town Walls, said that members of the public had already been using car parking spaces at his offices.
"We have very limited parking, we need to be able to use our parking spaces and not have them taken by other motorists not wanting to pay for parking."
Michelle Gilchrist, of White Lotus Living on Wyle Cop, said; “The council is doing the town a massive disservice and are not helping the local economy in these tricky times. Do they want Shrewsbury’s streets to be quiet and empty?”
Nat Green, councillor for the Quarry and Coton ward said the march showed that not all members of the council were set on "this unfair scheme to raise car parking charges".
“I think the town needs encouragement not taxes. This town centre should be the best shopping experience in England but it is being let down,” he added.
But Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council said: “I am concerned that negative and misleading messaging are going out to local businesses and the wider public about new car parking charges and the town in general.
"Shropshire Council, with our partners, has worked very hard over the past year to get this strategy right.
"We have responded to public consultations, organised public meetings and as a consequence we have made significant improvements to the strategy. It is in everyone’s interests to see the town thrive and I am committed to ensuring that this happens."
What are the changes to parking?
Cabinet members agreed earlier this year that parking and permits across the county would follow a ‘linear’ tariff, with all car parks and on-street provision sorted into seven bands.
Under the new parking strategy people will still have a 15 minute 'pop and shop' period.
Legally people have a 10-minute ‘grace period’ when they park. Currently Shropshire council allows 15 minutes on top of that – so, effectively, people have 25 minutes free parking at the moment.
Under the new strategy, this will be reduced to five minutes on top of the statutory 10 minutes – so people will still have 15 minutes to ‘pop and shop’.
The charges for each car park in the county will be different, depending on where it is and the demand for spaces.
The cheapest, band seven, includes a car park in Clun where all parking will be free. In contrast, band one charges including on-street parking in Shrewsbury will be £2.50 for every hour. Band two car parks will charge £1.80 an hour, band three is £1, band four 70p, band five 50p and band six 30p per hour.
News of the changes, which will be brought in next month, was met with dismay by business leaders, shopkeepers and motorists, who say most will pay more.
Shrewsbury Town Council said the measures were ‘excessive’, councillors in Ludlow urged the council to have a rethink and in Market Drayton thousands of people signed a petition against the plans.
But Steve Davenport, cabinet member for highways and transport, today defended the change, saying: “Shrewsbury is vibrant and bustling and I am told, based on counters and contrary to what is being said, that footfall is positive and increasing since Christmas.
“We have to take measures to encourage people to park in an appropriate place depending upon how long they want to stay. The hourly charging rate in Abbey Foregate will be 50p per hour, in Frankwell it will be 70p per hour, in St Julian’s Friars £1 per hour and right in the centre of town in the Raven Meadows car park it will be £1.80 per hour.
“In Frankwell and Abbey Foregate, for up to five hours, it will cost less than it does today. There will be free car parking in Frankwell and Abbey Foregate on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
"We are introducing weekly tickets and season discounted tickets for workers. There will be no evening charges in Abbey Foregate or St Julian’s Friars. We will also look at future improvements to park and ride.
“So, all considered, this is a real improvement for the town in which we encourage those who wish to stay longer, or who want to pay less, to park on the edge of town, rather than on the streets, leaving space for those with mobility issues or who just want to quickly pop in and out.
“Our intention is to build on an already fantastic visitor experience, keep people and traffic moving and help the town and our businesses to grow.”