THE livelihoods of Chippenham traders could be put in jeopardy after Wiltshire Council said it is considering increasing car parking charges by as much as 12 per cent.

A number of business owners, councillors and organisations have spoken out against the plans, which would see all day parking in Bath Road rise from £7.50 to £8.40, arguing that the increase in charges would lead to a shortfall in custom.

Jess Baker, who owns baby clothing shop Twinkle Twinkle in Emery Gate, said: “I think trade has definitely gone down in Chippenham over the last year so a change in car parking charges is going to crucify the town.”

Wiltshire Council will be holding a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discuss the seven options available to it before the approved plan faces eight weeks of public consultation. The options range from introducing Sunday and Bank Holiday charges to eradicating free parking schemes in November and December but it is clear that the preferred option in the report is to raise the charges in line with inflation.

Councillor Sandie Webb, the leader of Chippenham Town Council, said: “The rise in parking ticket charges is a disgrace and pays little service to the economic regeneration of our towns, a function that sits firmly with Wiltshire Council.

“It will simply add to the problems for independent and national traders alike in our town centres and drive valuable custom to edge-of-town and out-of-town centres.

“If Wiltshire Council want to see deserted town centres in their county, they are going the right way to achieve that aim.”

Those views were also echoed by Simon Cooper, one of the Chippenham Chamber of Commerce’s board members, and Tom Paget, associate solicitor at Awdry Bailey and Douglas and Chippenham BID director.

“There is no simple answer to the problem of car parking in Chippenham and the BID understands that Wiltshire Council needs to earn income from its car parks to cover the running costs,” Mr Paget said.

“We are aware that access to car parking is a big concern for many businesses in Chippenham and the BID is always looking for ways to work with Wiltshire Council and Chippenham Town Council to identify solutions to this issue and to ensure that the town’s infrastructure, including car parks, bus and cycle routes, are meeting the needs of all those who work in or visit Chippenham.”

Wiltshire Council says it has produced the report to help bridge the gap between rising costs and that the new charges, if implemented, will go towards safeguarding the future of rural bus services.