Bideford businesses have written to the Gazette to air their support for free parking in the town, saying it would boost trade and ‘bring shops back to life’.

Traders in their droves have been pledging their support for two hours' free parking in Bideford.

Last week the Gazette reported how Bideford Town Council voted to support the Bideford and District Chamber of Commerce in its bid to persuade Torridge District Council to provide free parking in the town.

Bideford business owners have written to the Gazette saying the proposals would increase trade.

Sadie Humphreys, secretary of the Bideford Quay Farmers' Market, said each trading year has got worse since 2009.

She added: "The town of Bideford is simply dying and free parking would be just one very positive way to entice customers and tourists into the town."

Rod Mullick, of Abbots Furniture Company, said he thought free parking would 'bring shops back to life', and Tonia Quance, of Bideford Cobblers and Keys hailed the idea as 'forward thinking'.

James Webster, who owns Josie's in Mill Street, said: "Free parking is essential in my view to help bring the town back to being the town it once was."

Brian and Susie Ottway, of Sounds Interesting in Mill Street, added: "High parking charges will ultimately lead to lower revenue for the council as traders give up, thereby removing the need for car parks at all."

Councillor John Himan, lead member for the economy at TDC, said the council had not been officially approached by the town council or chamber of commerce.

He said: "In general we have a duty to support all businesses in the district and not just those in Bideford or those in town centres."

Cllr Himan said the town centres should be 'people focused' rather than 'car focused'.

He added there had been no increase in parking charges since 2011, and there was free parking in some car parks on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

"TDC has been proactive in considering parking as one of the options to drive economic growth," he said.

"However we remain open to new initiatives and await further details of these proposals."

Cllr Himan said a working group would be set up to look at car parking across the district.

For more feedback on the call for free parking, see Opinion on pages six and seven.