“WEST Berkshire Council is doing everything it can to discourage people from shopping in the town centre.”
That is the view of furious business owners and Newbury residents as the council prepares to implement the second phase of its controversial on-street car parking scheme next week.
From Monday, September 21, pay and display parking will be introduced at another 67 bays across the town – in Northbrook Street (five bays either side of Albert Road), Bartholomew Street (20 bays), Kings Road West (18 bays that are currently unrestricted) and Broadway (three bays by the Clock Tower).
People will still be able to park for free for up to half an hour, but they will have to pay to stay longer.
The three bays at the Broadway currently have free parking for up to an hour, but this will be restricted to 30 minutes from Monday.
The first phase of the scheme, which drew widespread criticism, was implemented in 12 streets in the town in July 2014 despite a petition signed by 1,719, people opposed to the move.
Dmitris Panayi, the owner of the Kings Coffee House in the Broadway, said the new charges would have a big impact on the business.
“There is already a really poor provision for parking in Newbury and this is only going to make things worse,” he said.
“It is really going to affect small businesses like us.”
This was a view shared by Wendy Berkeley, who owns the Empire Café in Cheap Street.
She said: “I am just concerned for the future of the town. For some of my older customers, the mere thought of seeing parking meters deters them from coming in because they are worried they are going to be fined.
“Half an hour free parking is just about okay if you just want a snack or a cup of tea, but it’s not long enough for people to come in and have a meal.”
Michael Beatty, who owns the Octopus furniture shop in Bartholomew Street, said it was “undoubtedly a negative thing for smaller businesses”.
The Newbury Weekly News revealed in January that the council had received a total of £27,693 from on-street parking charges in the first four months of the scheme being introduced – almost double the £15,000 it predicted it would make in the whole of the 2014/15 financial year.
The council says that the money will be reinvested into the district’s road network as it is legally required to do.
Newbury resident Mr Ben Wood said: “I was dismayed to see that even more of the last remaining free parking spaces in the town are being converted to pay and display.
“These streets are the latest to fall victim to the council’s relentless land-grab to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of Newbury residents.
“It seems that West Berkshire Council has little regard for car drivers and is doing everything it can to discourage people from shopping in the town centre.
“We’ve already lost a huge number of local shops on Northbrook Street and removing free parking spaces does little to encourage people who just want to pop into town to pick up a few things from a local bakery or butcher’s shop.”
Council leader Gordon Lundie (Con, Lambourn Valley) previously defended the move, saying he didn’t think it was wrong to ask people to pay a “reasonable amount of money” to park in the town.