PLANS to introduce “ill thought-out” parking charges that critics claim would have had a “disastrous” impact on Thatcham town centre have been scrapped.
West Berkshire Council had proposed a £1 pay-by-phone charge to park for one hour in the Broadway and High Street, to raise £11,000.
However, following warnings from traders about the debilitating effect the charges would have on the town’s economy, the district council has pulled the plug on the proposal.
The leader of West Berkshire Council, Graham Jones, (Con, Lambourn) announced the decision when the council set its budget at a meeting last Thursday.
In fact, it was the ruling Conservatives who voted through their own amendment to scrap the charges.
Welcoming the cut, Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “The town council were unanimous in their wish to not see this charge being introduced.
“I know the chamber of commerce in Thatcham as well have spoken very critically of the proposals, so I welcome its removal in this budget.”
Thatcham Chamber of Commerce had surveyed 35 businesses, with 32 expressing major concerns and some saying that the charges would have been “the final nail”.
There were fears that half-an-hour free parking would be insufficient and that pay-by-phone parking would be an inconvenience to shoppers, particularly the elderly.
On hearing the news that the charges had been scrapped, Thatcham Chamber of Commerce chairman Jeremy Cottam said: “I’m so relieved to hear that.
“I’m so glad that they have listened to the arguments because I know how concerned businesses were.
“I’m glad that the council had the sense to see at the end of the day that this would have been a terrible idea for Thatcham.
“I think if that had gone ahead it would have been a disaster.”
The council had looked at introducing the charges, which would have made a net profit of £11,000 a year, as a result of “severe financial pressures”.
It said that it would “enable additional income generated to be used to continue to secure expeditious, convenient and safe movement of traffic and adequate parking facilities on and off the public highway”.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Dillon said: “The council’s on-street car parking proposals were ill thought-out in the first place.
“No economic impact was conducted on how much damage would be done to local business for the sake of raising an additional £11,000.
“Also, their other reason was keeping Thatcham moving, but it already had limited parking hours in place.”