PEOPLE concerned about plans to bring parking charges to Devizes Market Place can have their say when the town council meets tomorrow evening (Tuesday) at 7pm.

The proposal by Wiltshire Council to get rid of free parking and install parking machines has infuriated many and prompted the mayor Nigel Carter to ask for it to be added to the agenda of the planning committee.

He said: "Since the days of Kennet District Council, a premium has been placed on parking charges in the town to supplement the costs of maintenance of the Market Place as a public open space.

"The Devizes Guardians believe that charged-for parking in the Market Place, with the attendant regulations for its use, will threaten the viability and the quality of the town’s cultural events and perhaps even see the closure of its out-door markets."

Wiltshire councillor Bridget Waymay, who is the cabinet member responsible for parking was invited to attend but it is understood she has declined. Devizes MP Claire Perry has also been informed of the upset by the proposals and the town council is joining with the chamber of commerce to fight the change.

Last week civic and business leaders in Devizes said they were outraged that Wiltshire Council has ignored their pleas to leave the Market Place as a free parking zone and plans to introduce pay and display meters.

Deputy town clerk Simon Fisher said: “It is outrageous that what we said has been completely ignored and it is equally outrageous that Wiltshire Council did not inform us of this decision.”

Mayor Nigel Carter is also unhappy that the proposal to introduce a 70p charge for the first hour, £1.30 for two hours and £1 on a Sunday was hidden away in an appendix to last week’s Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting agenda and despite the town council writing a detailed letter explaining why the half-hour free parking should remain in the Market Place, it was not informed of the new proposal.

Town councillor Kelvin Nash, who represents Devizes on the Community Area Transport Group and Community Area Air Quality Group, said: “Some years ago, Wiltshire Council has converted our beautiful Market Place, full of interesting and historic architecture, into a car park, albeit free parking and no requirement for parking meters.

“The authority is now proposing a final step to cement the status of the Market Place as a car park, conforming to the county-wide policy, and installing the requisite street furniture.”

Former mayor Jane Burton said: “The Market Place is in a conservation area. What are they thinking of to put unsightly parking meters in there? People will park on residential roads or simply won’t visit the town.”

Fellow town councillor Judy Rose described Wiltshire’s lack of communication as disgraceful contempt. She said: “We felt turning one of the finest market places in England into a permanent car park was totally impractical and unacceptable.”

Business owner Iain Wallis, from the Federation of Small Business, said: “How long will it be before Wiltshire Council decides that their revenues from the car park are greater than the income from the market and decide that the market, a fixture for over 800 years, has to go?”

Independent councillor Ian Hopkins said: “I think it is an ill-judged decision and a very spiteful one as well.”

Wiltshire Council says consultation will take place when Traffic Regulation Orders are publicised later in the year but changes are expected to come into force during the summer.

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “This was an extensive consultation with well over a thousand responses. Unfortunately, it would not be practical to update all those who responded.”