MORE than 100 anti-parking charge protesters rallied on Monday to voice fears that Thornbury could become a 'dormitory town with no heart and soul'.

Families and traders gathered outside Turnberrie's Community Centre to share 'grave concerns' about the town's future if free parking is scrapped. 

They fear that customers will simply switch to areas with free car parks such as Yate Shopping Centre, Willowbrook Shopping Centre in Bradley Stoke and Cribbs Causeway. 

South Gloucestershire Council is preparing to introduce fees in all its car parks as part of its new budget - with council tax and garden waste charges also expected to rise. 

The Lib Dem and Labour-led authority hopes to raise £2 million annually from charges, which it says are 'in line' with other local councils.

Gazette Series: The demonstration against parking charges taking place in Thornbury on MondayThe demonstration against parking charges taking place in Thornbury on Monday (Image: St Mary Centre / Thornbury Chamber of Commerce / Thornbury Town and District Residents Association )

Gazette Series: St Mary Centre / Thornbury Chamber of Commerce / Thornbury Town and District Residents

“There will be a real human impact"

However, a Thornbury Chamber of Commerce survey revealed that 3,000 people were opposed to the scheme, with a spokesperson saying traders were fighting for their livelihoods.

 “The imposition of parking charges threatens our town's economy and community spirit, burdening residents and local businesses with additional financial strain,” they said. 
“The overwhelming response from traders and residents reflects the collective strength of feeling within our community. 
“There will be a real human impact. Our tradespeople are already suffering from the impact of poor planning decisions and already find themselves on precarious ground. 

“Another financial blow would not merely be an economic setback but in many cases a threat to their existence.

“Thornbury Chamber of Commerce is standing hand in hand with Thornbury Town and District Residents Association to stop the town becoming a dormitory town with no heart and soul. 

“We urge cabinet members to reconsider the proposed charges before it is too late.”

MP Luke Hall backed the protest saying: "The people of Thornbury have spoken.

"It is clear that there is widespread concern about the council's plan to introduce car parking charges which would cripple businesses, push parking problems to nearby neighbourhoods, hinder access for many, and be another blow to the town's High Street economy. 

"Residents were ignored on Thornbury High Street, they must not be ignored on this issue."

The council runs five different car parks in Thornbury including Rock Street, St Mary Street, Thornbury Leisure Centre, Castle Court, and Park Road.

Gazette Series: Parking fees are due to be introduced at the Rock Street Car Park in ThornburyParking fees are due to be introduced at the Rock Street Car Park in Thornbury (Image: South Gloucestershire Council)

'Phased implementation plan' expected says council 

SGC previously called on the government to increase local authority funding. 

A council spokesperson said: “The financial settlement provided to the council from central government does mean that in order to meet the £2 million income generation target set out in last year’s budget, a scheme of car parking charges will need to be implemented, in line with most local authorities across the country. 

“The details of this will be worked up over the coming weeks, with a phased implementation plan starting with council owned off-street car parks before progressing to on-street parking.  

“The council recognises that some members of the community have concerns about the potential detail and implementation of charging and so a scheme will be developed that balances the need for the council to balance the books with the needs of residents and businesses to maintain access to shopping facilities and footfall in local shops, for example.  

“The specifics of these charges, for example where they will apply and how much they will be, are yet to be determined, but in light of community concerns about the potential impact of this, which was widely expressed in the consultation process, the scheme will include an element of free parking and the introduction of business permits where appropriate.   

“In order that these measures do not lead to drivers congesting local residential areas, there will also need to be new regulations to street parking in some areas to protect local residents, and a balance will be struck so that parking near to local shops is not blocked by all-day parking commuters.”

The budget is scheduled to be presented to councillors at a full council meeting on Wednesday, February 21.