A row is looming between Devizes Town Council and Wiltshire Council over changes to free car parking which could pose a threat to the historic Devizes to Westminster canoe race.

Following Wiltshire Council’s decision to end the town council’s provision of free parking for events, organisers of the canoe race could face a bill of £2,300 to cover the cost of the parking spaces that they need to stage the event.

Devizes councillors are to meet to decide whether the town council should provide emergency funding to pay for the parking spaces itself.

But town councillors are furious, with one saying that Wiltshire Council gave “no thought at all” to the consequences for events posed by the change in free parking.

Devizes councillor Ian Hopkins said: “This presents a possible threat to the long-term viability of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race.”

He added: “Wiltshire Council removed free parking for established events in this year’s budget. They passed this policy without any real idea what the cost will be to events.

“The most prestigious of these is the international Devizes to Westminster canoe race, which is three weeks away and the organisers are unaware of what extra costs they are being asked to pay. This move by Wiltshire Council is completely irresponsible and is no way for events to plan their future.”

The 125-mile canoe race, which has run since 1948, runs April 15-18 and around 400 canoeists are expected.

A report to Devizes councillors states: “As has been tradition over many years, in January the organisers of the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race make their application for free event parking and this year such an application was made and agreed.

 “They have requested 334 parking spaces over four days. But within the Wiltshire Council budget for 2022/23 the service for free event parking for parish councils was removed and therefore currently there is no provision for the event.”

Cllr Hopkins said: “This is a bombshell for us and a dog’s dinner by Wiltshire Council. They should have realised this canoe event was coming up. I want Wiltshire Council to waive parking charges for the race this year, on a point of compassion. It’s not fair that the organisers could have to face a bill for thousands of pounds.”

Devizes councillors will meet on Tuesday [March 29] to decide on whether to fund the parking for this year’s canoe race.

A town council spokesman said Wiltshire Council had requested talks on how the cost of Devizes funding the race could be minimalised.