RESIDENTS and businesses in Belper are furious about the evening parking charges introduced by Amber Valley Borough Council.
The cash-strapped authority has brought in a 50p tariff for evenings and Sundays in the majority of the borough’s council-run pay and display car parks.
The move has been met with dismay by many people, with some claiming the council has not properly advertised the new charges.
The Green Lane car park, which is in the centre of Belper is used by many people coming into town for a night out.
Amanda Mundin, who runs the successful Ritz Cinema in King Street, close to that car park, said: “Has anyone at the council considered the impact on local business?
“Parking appears to be every council’s ‘go to’ in times of austerity, but how about making all town car parks free all day?
“I have already heard a couple of comments from customers suggesting that they will be cutting back on visits to Belper in the evening. What a shame when we were just beginning to see the town become a vibrant hive of activity.
“Parking fees may seem to councils to be inconsequential amounts of money to individuals and a great boost to the collective pot, but it is a hindrance to Belper’s socio-economic development.
“The council must agree with this because at Christmas we are offered free parking as an incentive to ‘shop local’.
“How about seeing the bigger picture all year round and embracing a shop local culture. Just look at the farmers market and the summer fair to see how wonderful our town could be!
“Why on earth do the likes of the out-of-town developments offer free parking? Because it works, that’s why!”
Amanda raised concerns about instructions on parking meters being misleading. She claims a motorist paying 80p for two hours parking will see that allocation end at 6pm, regardless of when they paid the money, and result in the person receiving a fine.
She continued: “The main concern for our business is that customers will be driven away by the increase.
“On a 6pm film showing, the increase to customers at Green Lane will be an additional 90p if they arrive after 5.30pm.
“Many people have made comments about the parking charges, firstly that they didn’t even realise there was a new charge and secondly that it is off-putting to visitors to the town.
“We put notices up as soon as the first customer told us about the issue and people have been leaving in droves to go back to their cars to feed the meter.”
Cllr Liz Bowley, of the borough council, said: “When motorists have enjoyed benefits of free parking at certain times of the day it’s only natural that introducing further charges is not going to be popular. I certainly don’t enjoy paying to park my car but at the same time I accept that there are costs associated with running car parks.
“Whilst it would be nice for the council to be able to provide free parking in all of the town centres, this has to be balanced against the cost of maintaining this and the range of other services provided. The unfortunate reality is that car parking is an expensive service to provide, with costs including rents, business rates, drainage, electricity, routine maintenance, repairs and occasional re-surfacing.
“Providing and maintaining the car parks should be met through income from reasonable parking charges, otherwise this cost would fall to council tax payers, many of whom will not own cars. Whilst I accept this approach may be unpopular for many it seeks to ensure the sustainable provision of town centre car parks over the long term.”