A Melton shopkeeper has called on borough councillors to act now over high parking charges to save the town centre from economic ruin.
Jamie How, owner of the How Sweet sweet shop in King Street, says the town’s high parking charges are threatening the survival of businesses.
The council raised parking charges in 2020 for the first time in four years and says it carried out extensive consultation with local businesses and interested parties beforehand.
But Mr How says the high cost of parking compared to other Leicestershire towns was disuading many from shopping in the town.
He said: “The parking charges are killing the town.
“People say every town is suffering but it’s down to the council to help try to alleviate the situation.
“But Melton Borough Council does nothing.
“£2.30 for two hours is the highest parking charge in the county.
“The town is dying. A week last Saturday, I sold two items, I made £3.75. On a Saturday. It isn’t worth it.
“It’s tough out there, but when I am standing in the shop and selling £3.75 worth of stuff on a Saturday, that was one ice cream and one lolly, it’s scary.
“You can’t survive. I can’t go on like that forever. Nobody could, there are other people suffering, it’s not just me. And it’s scary.”
Melton Borough Council said the drop in footfall is part of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
A spokesperson commented: “We have been working with partners to encourage more people into town when it is safe to do so via our Shop Safe, Shop Local campaign, support for local businesses in the town via the now closed Town Centre fund, which supported 26 town centre businesses with grants, and ongoing work relating to the beautification of the town.
“Indeed over the last six months we have seen many new shops in the centre open which has reduced the vacancy rate and signals the confidence business owners have in the vitality of the town.”
Charges in Melton Mowbray’s short stay car parks start at £1.20 for one hour, £2.30 for up to two hours, £3.40 for up to three hours and then £4 for up to four hours.
Drivers can park for 20 minutes free in St Mary’s Way car park, but still need to obtain a ‘free ticket’ from the machine.
Long stay car parks in the town are priced at £2.50 for up to three hours, or £4.50 to park all day.
Melton Borough Council added it still provides free parking for motorbikes and blue badge holders and a permit scheme is available to help reduce costs for regular users.
Mr How added the parking charges mean more people are using the six nearby supermarkets to run their errands, driving shoppers away from the high street.
“There are six national supermarkets in Melton, four away from the town centre,” he pointed out.
“They all offer free parking, will people pay £2.30 or go shopping where it’s free?
“Blaby is 30p for two hours. I was over in Blaby a few weeks ago and it’s a busy little town and they’ve got Fosse Park on their doorstep.
“Hinckley is free, in set car parks, after 3pm, when it’s half-term they do a free week.
“Four o’clock in Melton, you see tumble weed going down the street.
“Market Harborough increased their bays, for some in street parking, where it was free for 40 minutes up to an hour, so they’re trying to do something.
“Melton, the only change they’ve made in parking was about two years ago.
“What they used to do was charge extra on market day, on a Tuesday.
“Because people were coming into town, they exploited the situation by increasing the charges.
“People were moaning about it for years and they said ‘you’re quite right, we’re going to make it the same as every other day’.
“And then what did they do? They increased the price of parking across the board. You can’t win.”
The borough council said it dropped the Tuesday premium as a result of a public consultation into parking charges, adding: “The increase in charges were a result of a zero increase in the previous four years and designed to cover the cost of inflation as well as the additional costs of maintaining car parks within the town centre area.
“Significant public consultation was undertaken with key partners, stakeholders and the public before these new charges were introduced.
“Following feedback from members of the public, the council’s car parks continue to be free to use after 6pm and before 7:30am, as well as free on Sundays and Bank Holidays.”
The borough council added it has continued to support businesses through Covid grants, relaxing planning controls to allow businesses to create more covered spaces outside and supporting pre-Christmas trade in the four weeks leading up to Christmas by allowing people to park for free on Fridays.
Comparison of district and borough parking prices in Leicestershire:
***Blaby District Council charges 30p for up to 2 hours, 50p for up to 3 hours, £1.50 for up to 4 hours and £5 for over 4 hours.
***Harborough District Council charges £1.50 for up to 2 hours, £2 for up to 3 hours, £3 for up to 4 hours and £7.50 for over 4 hours in Market Harborough’s short stay car parks and £2.50 for up to four hours and £5 over four hours in the town’s long stay car parks.
***In Lutterworth’s short stay car parks, it charges £1 for one hour, £1.50 for up to 2 hours, £2 for up to 3 hours, £3 for up to 4 hours and £5 for over 4 hours.
***Oadby and Wigston Borough Council has just introduced town centre car parking charges of £1 for up to two hours, then £3 for up to four hours and £4 for more than four hours, with a limited number of 30 minute free spaces available at certain car parks.
***Charnwood Borough Council charges 20p for up to half an hour, 60p for up to an hour, £1.60 for up to two, £2.20 for up to 3 hours, £3.20 for up to four hours, £4.90 for up to five hours and £6 for over five hours at its two Loughborough town centre car parks.
***Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council charges 60p for up to one hour, £1.20 for up to two hours, £1.60 for up to five hours and £2.50 for over five hours at the majority of its Hinckley car parks.
Prices at its Market Bosworth car park start at 30p for up to one hour, 50p for up to two hours, £1 for up to four hours and £2 for over four hours.
* What do you think? Email [email protected] to give us your views on Melton parking charges.