Traders have hit out at plans to double car-parking charges in town centres, saying they have not been consulted on the plans.
North Tyneside Council is looking to increase charges in Wallsend, North Shields and Whitley Bay town centres from 1p a minute to 2p a minute, with a two-hour limit, with effect from September 1.
These charges will discourage even further, shoppers from visiting the town centresNorth Shields trader
But fears have been raised that the move could drive shoppers away, and have a damaging impact on the towns.
One North Shields trader, who asked not to be named, said: “These charges will discourage, even further, shoppers from visiting the town centres that everyone is aware are already suffering a steady decline in business.
“Who can be surprised when parking is free in all the more convenient supermarket car parks and out-of-town shopping centres?
“North Tyneside’s councillors should take note of what is happening in Northumberland where car parking in town centres is free for two hours in order to encourage shoppers.”
Traders are being supported by opposition councillors.
Coun Judith Wallace, leader of the Conservatives on North Tyneside, said: “The current 1p per minute charge has worked well, enabling people to pop into our towns, call at a shop or the bank, and then return to the car.
“It also means people can afford to stay longer, say if they meet friends and go for a coffee. Now the cost is to double, to 2p a minute.
“We should be encouraging both local people and visitors to come to our town centres. This massive rise will have the opposite effect.
“It comes on top of the 50 per cent increase in sea front car parks in the spring, which caused huge protest.
“There has been no consultation about the hike, despite the fact that the original charge was introduced following detailed discussions with the local businesses.”
A North Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to supporting the vitality and success of our town centres.
“The focus of this review of parking tariffs has been to offer a system that supports better parking in the town centres, so that more people have the opportunity to use our local businesses.
“The plans aim to address an issue we currently have which sees the ‘penny per minute’ bays which are there to support quick trips into the town, being used by longer-term parkers.
“To rebalance this, our plan is to increase charges from 1p per minute to 2p per minute in the heart of the town centres, and set a new two-hour limit.
“This would mean that short trips into town would remain inexpensive and parking spaces which are most convenient for the shops will become available more frequently.
“By doing so, we expect that drivers looking for a longer stay would be more likely to use the 50p per hour bays or free parking also available in the town centres, which will stay at the current charge level to ensure that long stay parking is not discouraged.
“We’ve already had some discussions with our Chambers of Trade about these plans, and will continue to work closely with them to ensure that our parking system reflects the needs of all our town centre visitors, supporting and encouraging them to continue to use our local businesses.”