THE suspension of controversial Sunday parking charges by Wiltshire Council, which was due to be introduced last month, has been welcomed by the local community.
The proposed charges, which were deemed as a “terrible idea’ drew criticism from local businesses in the run up to Christmas, as well as local church leaders and community groups.
The charges were due to start in all Wiltshire Council-run car parks across the county, including those in Westbury. But following condemnation from local people and groups, the council has had a rethink. However, it is not known how long the suspension will last.
Responding to the news of the suspension, Rev. Rhona Floate from Westbury’s All Saints Church said, “Wiltshire Council’s decision not to implement car parking charges on Sundays is good news. It’s an early Christmas present that will benefit residents and their visitors, shoppers and businesses throughout the county, including here in Westbury.
“My objections to the charges were always about more than just the needs of worshippers attending town centre churches with little or no parking, although they will also benefit. It means there’s one day a week which is just a little bit different from the rest of the week, when people can go into their town centres and not be constantly watching the clock for fear of running over the initial free two hours.
“It helps us keep Sunday a special day for people to spend time as families and communities, car parking inspectors included. Congratulations to Wiltshire Council for responding to people’s opinions in this way.”
Local MP, Andrew Murrison, has also commended the council for suspending the Sunday charges in its car parks.
Thousands of residents across the county had already signed a petition in an attempt to force a debate and vote on the charges at the next meeting of Wiltshire Council in the New Year.
Reacting to the news, leader of the opposition and Lib Dem group leader on Wiltshire Council, cllr Ian Thorn said, “I’m delighted that Wiltshire Council’s cabinet has finally seen sense. These Sunday parking charges were a terrible idea.
“They would have hit our town centre residents, businesses, churches and the work of all of us who want to keep our high streets alive. Thousands of residents from right across Wiltshire had already signed our protest petition, with more doing so every day. We already had the 5,000 signatures we needed to force a council debate and a vote on this plan.
“From what I was hearing from councillors in the different political groups, I believe we would have won that vote. No doubt the cabinet had also worked that out.”
The suspension of Sunday charges was announced as part of a £8million commitment by Wilshire Council to support local towns and communities across the county. A 12-month programme to deliver improvements to local highway maintenance including repair of potholes, improve white lining, weed removal, kerb and pavement improvements, verges and improved road signage will be implemented.
Wiltshire Council says that the programme ‘reflects what’s important to local communities and recognises the pressures on high streets.’
Cllr Pauline Church, cabinet member for economic development said, “This re-affirms our commitment to supporting our high streets and local businesses. We need to do all we can to encourage shoppers and visitors across the county, particularly as we head into the important festive period.
“This programme of highway improvements, combined with the suspension of charging for parking on Sundays, sends a robust message that we are committed to supporting the local economy and that we listen and respond.”
Welcoming the announcement, local MP, Andrew Murrison, said, “The Chancellor announced funds for potholes in the budget and I’m pleased Wiltshire is losing no time in spending its share.”