Parking charge equality would be a ‘nightmare’

PLANS to impose parking charges equivalent to Keynsham’s on two nearby towns would be a “nightmare” that would lose their high streets customers, local businesses have warned.

Shoppers in Midsomer Norton and Radstock currently park for free at council car parks in the two towns, something which local traders say has helped to keep the high streets alive.

But charges for those car parks could soon be brought in as part of Bath and North East Somerset Council’s plans to balance its budget.

The price of a parking ticket would depend on the emissions of your vehicle, the same way that council car parks in Bath now work.

The plans would also see this method of pricing across Keynsham, Saltford, and all remaining on and off-street locations in Bath.

Mike Burstone of Midsomer Norton model shop Signals warned: “That’ll kill the town.”

He said: “That’s the worst thing they could do. How many towns do you see with free parking? Not many.”

Hairdresser Mel at Razor Cuts in neighbouring Radstock said: “There’s hardly anywhere to park anyway in Radstock, and obviously for our customers and things it would be a nightmare.”

Karen Starr, who runs Out of Asia on Midsomer Norton High Street, said: “They start charging for the car park, they are going to destroy this town completely as there isn’t much left anyway.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council says that introducing the charges will help to increase turnover of shoppers and visitors, but Ms Starr warned: “We will lose customers for this town without a doubt.”

She added: “We get people from Bath, people from Keynsham. One of the reasons they come here — particularly from Bath —  is because the car parking is free.”

Ms Starr said: “B&NES want money for Bath, they are not interested in Midsomer Norton.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council is expecting to make £195,000 a year through ending free parking in the neighbouring towns, the wider rollout of emissions-based parking, and inflationary price increases. 

Emissions-based parking was introduced in Bath last September — despite concerns about the “cumulative impact” on lower-income households — with drivers of the most polluting vehicles having to pay to up to 90p more for an hour’s parking. 

Mark Elliott, the council cabinet member for resources, said difficult choices would have to be made in the light of squeezed budgets and rising demand.

“One of the proposals would see parking charge increases, alongside the extension of emission-based charging across all locations in Bath, both on-street and off-street, and to Keynsham.

“Parking charges based on vehicle emissions are also proposed for Midsomer Norton and Radstock, where parking is currently free of charge, to an equivalent level as in Keynsham.

“Charging would make it easier for shoppers to find parking by encouraging turnover of spaces. However no decision has been taken yet.”

The council is facing a budget gap in the next financial year of £24.53m. A rise in council tax of the maximum 4.99% allowed (two percentage points of which will be ring fenced for spending on adult social care) is also being proposed.

A public consultation on the council’s budget proposals closed on January 15, and the final proposals were due to be considered by cabinet on February 8 and the full council on February 20.

John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Pictured, Bath Hill East is one of the Keynsham car parks where emissions-based charges may be introduced