INTRODUCING parking charges will drive shopkeepers and traders out of business in Thornbury, a council meeting heard.

Civic leaders have proposed the new fees to plug a budget gap amid a huge political blame game.

St Mary Shopping Centre manager Alan Cole told in South Gloucestershire Council cabinet members that the end of free parking would see customers spend their money elsewhere and result in many retailers having to “close their doors permanently”.

It comes as opposition Conservatives have launched a petition against the plans.

The SGC Lib Dem/Labour coalition insists the previous Tory administration introduced the charges by stealth by including £1.5million to £2million of new parking charges as part of £7million of “income generating targets” when the budget was passed last February.

The Conservatives accuse the coalition of “spreading deliberate mistruths” and say pay-and-display at council car parks and on-street bays is “unfair and unnecessary”.

Mr Cole told the cabinet meeting on Monday: “The introduction of parking charges will disadvantage Thornbury from a competitive nature with other nearby regional schemes, for instance Yate shopping centre, Willow Brook Shopping Centre and Cribbs Causeway who all own and control their own parking assets.

“There is a partnership between Thornbury and the local authority that relies deeply on the availability of free parking.

“It goes hand in glove with making sure that the town functions as a retail space and that people will continue to visit the town and shop there.

“I’m asking that the cabinet rejects any proposal for the introduction of these charges.”
He said retailers had endured a succession of disruption over the last four years, including the pandemic, the High Street revamp and the closure of the main car park in the run-up to last Christmas.

Mr Cole said a survey of 66 traders showed many feared that custom would be badly affected. 

“If parking charges are introduced, reduced shopping numbers will for many mean that they have to close their doors permanently,” Mr Cole said.

“So that’s a serious issue given the investment the local authority has made in the town with the High Street and with improvements to car parking.

“It’s contrary to what you’re trying to achieve.

“The introduction of these charges will be an economic self-defeat.

“That is the message I’m hearing, because any gains will be negated by the loss in business rates revenue as a result of closures.

“I know that sounds drastic but it is realistic.

Cllr Young replied that council leaders had been in constructive talks with Mr Cole and the chamber of commerce and that she hoped those continued.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have launched a petition against the proposals at

Group leader Cllr Sam Bromiley said: “I call on the coalition to scrap the proposals at the earliest opportunity.

“The administration should be doing all it possibly can to support residents instead of saddling them with additional costs."

Council co-leader Labour Cllr Ian Boulton said previously that the former Tory administration commissioned a report setting out how the £7 million of new income would be raised and that this involved “exploring the introduction of parking charges”.

Conservatives admitted officers did look into it but that there were no commitments to make drivers pay to park