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New row over parking fees

FURIOUS Labour group leader Cllr Keith Dibble has called on Rushmoor Council to conduct a full review of car parking charges across Farnborough and Aldershot.

The controversial decision taken by the cabinet to introduce a Sunday parking charge has been slammed by Cllr Dibble.

He said: "Rushmoor has once again fallen into the trap of using a piecemeal approach to settling parking charges.

"It is time to stop this annual fiasco and set up a full review process, which should consult as widely as possible with town centre manage-ment, local traders, shoppers and employees."

His comments come after councillors voted to bring in a Sunday and bank holiday charge at car parks across the borough in a one-year pilot scheme.

Proposals for scrapping the popular ‘free after three' deal at Aldershot's High Street car park and introducing evening charges were deferred for consultation in September.

Cllr Dibble added: "A balanced approach is required which makes Aldershot, North Camp and Farnborough car parking charges attractive enough to encourage people to visit.

"These need to be set at a sensible level to make a reasonable and, above all, a fair contribution to the Rushmoor budget."

These charges come just eight months after the council last increased rates, enraging local retailers and shoppers.

Aldershot town centre manager Jenny Rawlings has sent 400 surveys to retailers across the town asking for their views on the new charges and how they will affect their businesses.

She said: "We are getting responses back daily from retailers across the town and we are into double figures already.

"So far the majority of people see the Sunday charging as potentially damaging to their business.

"With regards to the ‘free after three' scheme that will be reviewed in September, this is unique to Aldershot and allows families to come into Aldershot after school for library clubs, clothes shopping and fast food treats.

"We would like to see this facility retained."

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Craig Card was also horrified at the new charges and has vowed that his group will also call the proposal in for review.

He said: "The cabinet has not taken into account the fact that other neighbouring towns have also tried to bring in the charges and have had to reduce them soon after.

"Guildford and Camberley both had to reduce the charges after they found that it seriously affected their Sunday trading.

"This matter must be brought in for a review."

He added that Farnborough town centre in particular would be severely affected as it would be at least two years before new shops would be introduced as part of the town's regeneration.

Miss Rawlings agreed that the charges should be put on hold for a couple of years until the towns' shopping centres were strong enough to withstand a drop in customers.

Aldershot town centre now has only 18 empty shops compared to 68 in 1999, but Miss Rawlings believes that until the perception that the town is empty changes shoppers will continue to go elsewhere.

"These charges will only make things worse," she added. "Aldershot is on the up and we have to keep it that way.

"Give us two years and then maybe look at introducing the parking charges, but wait until we can fully stand tall."

Tory council leader Cllr John Marsh defended the decision to bring in the parking charges, arguing that the hourly rate would pay for car parking facilities which would otherwise not be in use.

He said: "We want to provide a better service for people who wish to shop on Sundays.

"We would like to have the lifts, CCTV and parking patrols at the car parks and the only way we can fund this is for people to pay something.

"The point is that the public and traders now regard trading as a seven day week activity and we have to provide the proper services.

"I have no problem with the other parties calling it in — it is their right under the constitution."


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
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