A REQUEST to suspend parking charges to encourage people to shop locally has been turned down by New Forest District Council.
Ahead of non-essential shops reopening this week, Cllr Malcolm Wade, who represents Hythe and Dibden at a parish, district and county level, asked deputy leader Cllr Edward Heron if the council would consider keeping car parks free for up to two months.
Cllr Wade told the A&T he had been contacted by traders who had asked him to bring the issue to the council’s attention. One trader said in an email: “We need people to shop local where possible and get used to a new normal way of life. We feel that leaving the parking for free over the next couple of months would benefit us all and would show that we are doing all we can to help people shop local by not enforcing an added cost of parking charges to them.”
Speaking at an online meeting of the council’s environment overview and scrutiny panel on Thursday in last week, Cllr Wade, a Lib Dem, said: “In light of shops across the forest reopening and taking in to account that we want to support people shopping locally and the fragile financial situation of both the shops and the customers, would the district council consider removing car parking charges for a period of perhaps two months to encourage local shopping to help our traders?”
However, Cllr Heron, who is also the cabinet member for planning and transportation, said the Conservative-run council had already lost £400,000 in car parking charges due to coronavirus.
He said: “I obviously share with Cllr Wade the concern about all the businesses in the New Forest that have suffered tremendously and are still suffering, but I would also say so has this council during the period of closure.”
The council’s deputy chief executive and executive head of operations, Colin Read, told the meeting that the council would lose a further £100,000 per month if the car parks did not resume charging motorists.
Mr Read added: “The loss of the income would be two-fold: the money in the meters and also how we would deal with people who have already bought pre-paid clocks.”
Cllr Heron added the NFDC car parking clocks, which cost £25 per year, were “exceptional value”.