An influential business group has spoken out against the council’s proposed rise in car park charges in Market Harborough and Lutterworth.
More than 30 businesses at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in Market Harborough voted unanimously against the price hike.
They said that with a noticeable rise in vacant shop premises in the town, now was not the right time for the increases.
“The feeling from the meeting was clear,” said chamber president Alastair Campbell.
“Nobody thought that a rise in parking charges was a good idea at the present moment in time.”
A meeting of Harborough District Council’s resource and performance scrutiny panel last month had broadly agreed to a report that recommended across-the-board increases to car park charges.
As reported in last week’s Harborough Mail, if all the recommendations from an independent consultants’ report are agreed, it would mean the cash-strapped council would get £1million a year in car park charges.
The report recommends:
* An increase in charges for up to two hours in a short stay car park from the present 70p to £1.
* Increase charges for up to four hours in a short-stay car park from £1.70 to £2.50.
* Increase charges for more than four hours in a long-stay car park from £2.20 to £4.
The report said the increased charges would simply bring Market Harborough and Lutterworth into line with car park charges in neighbouring towns.
Mr Campbell said: “It is understood that a future rise is inevitable, but for the first time in a while there is a noticeable rise in vacant shops on the high street.
“The last thing that retailers need at the moment is an action from the council that could put off visitors from visiting the town centre.”
Market Harborough has been resilient through the economic downturn over the past decade, he added.
However, signs that the low vacancy rates are changing was a cause for concern at the meeting. The council’s regulatory services manager Elaine Bird reminded councillors at their meeting that car park charges in the district had been frozen for four years.