Anger at ‘sneaky’ car park charge

Barnstaple businesses community to lobby council over new car park charge time.

THE Barnstaple business community has reacted angrily to what it describes as a ‘sneaky’ rise in town centre car parking charges.

North Devon District Council has changed the chargeable time in Barnstaple car parks from 8.30am to 8am, a move that has infuriated some early morning business networking groups. The new times came into effect on March 15.

Martin Critchard chairman of the RISE group, which meets from 7-8.30am at Lilicos on Wednesdays, said: “There is a huge groundswell of people who are unhappy with the change and even more who are unhappy with the sneaky way that it was instigated.”

He said he would be raising the issue at the North Devon Federation of Small Businesses’ April committee meeting, for which he is secretary.

RISE member Barbara Fryer added: “They changed the hours without any warning – no one in the group realised the times had been changed.”

Philip Byers, immediate past president of Barnstaple and District Chamber of Commerce, said no-one he had spoken with, including Barnstaple Town Centre Management and BID Barnstaple, had seen any consultation or notification process.

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He said: “This appears to be contrary to the current ‘will’ for the district council to be working ‘with businesses’.

“We are currently drafting a formal complaint on behalf of our members, other businesses and residents in the town.”

Cllr Brian Greenslade said that car parking charge times had been unified across the district and that other areas had actually have benefited from the changes.

He said: “The charges at council-owned car parks previously applied to different times, depending on where you were in North Devon. For example, in Ilfracombe, car parking was charged up until 9pm, whereas in Barnstaple it was 6pm.

“However, to bring all car parks in line with each other, the council agreed to make the chargeable times the same across all of its car parks. This means the new chargeable times are between 8am and 6pm.

“The purpose of this change is to simplify timings for all council car park customers. It was also felt these timings had the least impact on the majority of businesses, which not only cover Barnstaple, but Ilfracombe, South Molton and other areas. Indeed, the council’s statistics showed there was minimal use of car parks before 8.30am. However, the small revenue that this would bring in would help balance the unified times.

“As part of the proposed new charging times, the council followed a set procedure to inform customers and businesses of this, with a statutory notice in a local newspaper. We have also clearly highlighted the chargeable times on all of our pay and display machines.

“The council has also agreed to freeze car parking charges for 2012-13, which means customers pay the same as they did in 2011-12.”

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