A High Street in crisis as traders fight parking meter plan

TRADERS fear a Devon County Council plan to introduce parking meters on the streets of Ilfracombe could be the final nail in the coffin of the town s High Street. Representatives of the High Street Traders group were at a meeting of Ilfracombe Town Counc

TRADERS fear a Devon County Council plan to introduce parking meters on the streets of Ilfracombe could be the final nail in the coffin of the town's High Street.

Representatives of the High Street Traders' group were at a meeting of Ilfracombe Town Council on Monday night to hear their chairman, Robert McFarlane, make a plea for the meters to be kept out of town.

Fewer people were using the town's main car parks year on year as it was and motorists certainly would not pay to park in the streets, he said.

"We would like to know exactly what revenue would be made out of it," he told councillors. "It is not going to make the town any money."

Mr McFarlane said if the meters were introduced to the High Street it would be a case of "would the last person out please turn the lights off?"

High Street trader Nicola Stavrinou, of Dressed to Kill, has been at the forefront of a campaign to stop the parking meter plan.

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Installing the 14 meters would cost �45,000 with an annual maintenance bill of �14,000, she told the Gazette. The cost of two wardens - �50,000 - could be added to that. There wer around 105 street parking spaces, more than half of these on the sea front, which would be empty during the winter months. The traders estimated summer revenue at �47,628 in summer but only �18,144 in the winter months.

"We have collected approximately 600 signed questionnaires, some from holidaymakers, who say that they will think twice about coming here because of the cost of parking everywhere they go," Nicola said.

"North Devon Council is already getting less revenue from its car parks. There are about 1,000 parking spaces in Ilfracombe with a gross revenue of �422,000. That means each space brings in �422 a year, or approximately �8 a week. That's one ticket a day, which is not very good, is it?"

Traders point to the number of empty shops in the High Street as an indication that the town is struggling, perhaps partly because of competition from the out of town Tesco store, where parking is free.

Nicola said the High Street Traders had approached new local government secretary Eric Pickles and North Devon MP Nick Harvey for help.

The results of a county council consultation on the parking meter issue are not yet available.

n AN experimental park and ride scheme for Ilfracombe will be given a six-week trial by Devon County Council from July 19 until August 30.

A free bus service will run every half-an-hour from the Hillsborough car park by the swimming pool, calling at all the North Devon Council car parks, the High Street and the harbour.

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