AREA board chairman Simon Jacobs has defended Wiltshire Council’s decision to stop free parking in Devizes Market Place.

Traders and shoppers have reacted angrily to Wiltshire Council’s decision to only allow either paid for parking or no parking in the square.

At a meeting with business people last week the town council made it clear that during asset transfer negotiations keeping the free 30 minute parking was not an option that Wiltshire Council would allow.

But now Cllr Jacobs has entered the fray to give a positive spin on the situation. He said: “This transfer of assets and services will empower Devizes to be able to attract more people into the town through events and improved experiences. Towns need to find new ways to bring people into their centres and new ways to keep them there. Those are based around experiences and leisure, as well as the retail offer.

“Free parking in the Market Place was removed as part of a parking review over a year ago. We did not implement this change at the time to enable discussions with Devizes Town Council.

“To assist very short stay shoppers we are working with Devizes Town Council to ensure that there are free 30-minute on-street parking places in the centre of Devizes around the market place alongside the other parking available in the town.”

Devizes Town Clerk Simon Fisher said last week that he did not favour a public meeting on the Market Place as he thought not many people would attend and those who disagreed with the majority might feel intimidated.

He said he thought the council would get a better picture if pop-in sessions were held in the town centre so shoppers could speak to town councillors.

But now around 350 people have signed a Facebook poll calling for a town meeting and it is to be organised by the Confederation of Small Businesses and Devizes Future Market Place Group.

A date is yet to be set but it is likely to be next week. A spokesman said: “The council will be invited to the meeting and the Mayor or Deputy Mayor will be entitled to chair it however they will not set the agenda and all those at the meeting who are entitled to vote in Devizes will be allowed to vote on any resolutions put forward. If the council did decide to call a public meeting the request for a town meeting would be withdrawn.”