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Chippenham's free car parking plan hits a snag
Hopes of offering a concession for short-term car parking in Chippenham have faltered after the town council voted against the proposal.
Originally, it had been hoped that the town council would agree a pilot scheme to bring back the one-hour free parking – for one day a week after 3pm – in the 13 weeks run-up to Christmas, finding out from the local traders if this made a difference to them at the same time.
If councillors could show that trade increased significantly from last year, then the idea was that the council would put into its budget the cost of bringing back full-time the one-hour free parking by buying that time from Wiltshire Council.
However, council staff reported that the cost would reach more than £5,000 during the trial period.
Councillors have argued that, while they want to support the town’s businesses, the cost of providing free parking is too expensive.
They are now hoping that Wiltshire Council will work with traders in the town to provide adequate concessions instead.
At a strategy and resources committee meeting on Wednesday last week, Coun Bill Douglas said that unless a full consultation was done, the council should not be getting involved.
He said: “The costs for the proposal would be phenomenal.
“It is not suitable for the council to fund these.”
Coun John Scragg agreed, saying: “We would lose revenue and not gain enough to compensate.”
Head of support services at the town council, Chris Williams, had made a recommendation that Wiltshire Council is requested to work with the business community and town team Cherish Chippenham to produce a concessionary car parking scheme Leader of the council Andrew Noblet said: “I can see the benefits of free parking after 3pm until Christmas to parents picking their children up from school.
“They could come into the town centre after that, park for free, and do their shopping.”
Coun Elizabeth Kennedy, who spearheaded plans to reintroduce the free one-hour parking, said she is dismayed that the proposals have not been taken forward.
“The initiative of Cherish Chippenham and the management of Emery Gate and Borough Parade have done much to increase the offer of shops available in town, but the council needs to be supportive of of its traders by removing some of the barriers to trade – and offering an hour free parking would have been a start,” she said.
Controversial increases in car parking charges of up to 300 per cent were introduced in April 2011 by Wiltshire Council, with parking for one hour in Chippenham rising from 50p to £1.10.
Wiltshire Council later dropped this to £1 after complaints.