Councillors in Gillingham have reacted angrily to plans by Dorset Council to extend the number of hours it charges for car parking each day to 8pm and to get motorists to pay on Sundays too.
Councillor Graham Poulter told fellow members of the town’s general purposes committee: ‘I think we need to attract people shoppers into town and charging them at the weekends is an imposition and it doesn’t attract them.’ He said he was trying to find out how much Dorset Council gets from the main Gillingham car park on Fridays and Saturdays.
‘We then need to consider whether they can be persuaded to forgo it or whether we as a council can support it by actually subsidising it.’
Councillor Barry Von Clemens, the mayor, also noted that Dorset was planning to allow four days a year when town councils can use the car parks free to promote local events – which was fewer than the previous five days.
‘The whole thing just destroys a small rural town’s High Street,’ said Councillor Von Clemens.
‘The big towns can carry this kind of thing. But a high street which is fighting for its very existence needs every bit of help. If that means free parking after whatever hour or free parking on a Sunday then that’s what we need. We are not putting our hand out and saying “give us money”. We’re saying be reasonable and help us to help ourselves.’
Councillors agreed to send a letter to Dorset Council expressing their opposition to the proposals.
Gillingham Town Council will also ask that its five free parking days for 2020, which have been unallocated because of Covid, should be made available for Fridays and Saturdays early in December, once the scheduled lockdown is over.