INCREASING the cost of parking at district shopping centres in Poole will have a hugely damaging effect on small businesses, claim traders and councillors opposing the rise.
In January the cabinet of Borough of Poole approved new parking rates which will see the cost of parking for one hour in district car parks increase from 30p to 40p from April 1.
Meanwhile, charges for parking in the town centre are set to decrease from 90p to 80p.
Following cabinet’s approval of the new tariffs, a group of Liberal Democrat councillors have challenged the proposed rise in district car parks, claiming businesses outside of the town centre will be unfairly penalised.
After winning the backing of the council’s Call-In Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the cabinet is now due to review the increased rates on March 18.
Vikki Slade, one of the six councillors who called-in the decision, said: “This increase, if introduced, could mean many residents will choose not to shop or use facilities in their local communities. In my own ward of Broadstone this could have a damaging impact on our small businesses, many of which are unique to the local area.”
She added: “This is totally unfair and discriminates against district centres.
“Why should they have to subsidise the town centre and be put at a disadvantage?”
Simon Merry, chairman of Broadstone Cham-ber of Trade and Commerce, said local businesses were concerned about the proposed 10p increase.
He said: “Broadstone tries to attract residents from the ward and surrounding areas and we are always looking to attract those who do their shopping online and those who go to places like Castlepoint. This won’t help that at all.”
He added: “We haven’t been consulted and we would like a professional review on the impact on the local and wider economy.”
During a meeting held on Friday, March 7, the Call-In committee agreed to take the matter back to cabinet.
A spokesman from Borough of Poole said: “The Call-In was only about one element of the tariffs outlined in the proposed pricing strategy ie whether to increase district car park charges by 10p an hour. Councillors felt they could not support this. It goes back to the next cabinet meeting scheduled for March 18.”
'It's about finding a balance'
Simon Harrison, interim president of Poole Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said he sympathised with businesses affected but understood the rationale behind the decision.
“I think it’s never a good thing to see prices going up,” he said.
“From a retail point of view, raising parking charges will have an effect, it’s bound to, but it’s always about finding a balance between raising money for the borough in order to invest for the future and protecting local businesses.”
'Increases are reasonable'
The cabinet portfolio holder for transportation at Borough of Poole, Councillor Xena Dion, has defended the decision to increase rates at district car parks.
She said: “There is a large evidence base that people are more often attracted to a retail destination by a positive shopping experience rather than the price of parking.
“We believe these increases are reasonable and will not deter people from using our district shopping centres, which we know are visited by many people arriving on foot, by bus or bike instead of by car.”
Mrs Dion said the increases were being introduced to offset ‘unprecedented cuts’ currently facing the council.
“The council has to save £34.5million by 2018 which means making some difficult choices that will inevitably have an impact on our local communities,” she said.
“We cannot continue to expect the same services without looking to raise revenue in other areas.”