Backlash over parking fees

Liz Guest of Big Bites (centre) with, from left, Jane Fisher of The Pet Shop, Jane Goodenough of Big Bites, Mark Jones of Superdrug, Craig Scorer of W Benson, Nicole Lawson of Thomas the Baker, and Roo Bannister of Caffe Nero, with their petition forms protesting the new parking charges on Ripon market square. (1202071AM1)
Liz Guest of Big Bites (centre) with, from left, Jane Fisher of The Pet Shop, Jane Goodenough of Big Bites, Mark Jones of Superdrug, Craig Scorer of W Benson, Nicole Lawson of Thomas the Baker, and Roo Bannister of Caffe Nero, with their petition forms protesting the new parking charges on Ripon market square. (1202071AM1)

A RIPON shop owner is spearheading a campaign calling for the new parking charges on the city’s market square to be abolished.

Liz Guest, who runs Big Bites on Market Place, has launched a petition – supported by seven other shops in Ripon – which demands Harrogate Borough Council end the fees it introduced on January 11.

She said: “I think the council should be doing all it can to encourage people into Ripon for the shops and services.

“I’ve noticed it’s a lot quieter around the city since the charges were introduced. I fear some businesses might close.”

Previously, vehicles had been able to park on the northern half of the market square free of charge for up to an hour. But since January 11, it has cost 50p for 30 minutes’ parking and £1 for the full hour – the most expensive hourly rate in Ripon’s council-run car parks.

In contrast, prices at the other city centre car parks – Victoria Grove, St Marygate, Marshall Way, and The Arcade – rose from 50p to just 60p for one hour’s parking.

Mrs Guest said: “The petition calls for the parking charges to be abolished, or at least a reduction in charges so that the first 30 minutes of parking is free and an hour’s parking is 60p, in line with the other car parks.”

Since its launch on Thursday, February 2, around 700 signatures have been collected and Mrs Guest said the petition will be available to sign at Big Bites and seven other businesses until closing time on Friday, February 17.

The other shops collecting signatures for the petition are Caffe Nero, Thomas the Baker, Superdrug, Dorothy Perkins, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, The Pet Shop, and W Benson.

Craig Scorer, who has owned W Benson since 2004, said he had seen a slight drop in footfall in his shop since the charges were introduced.

“It just seems obstacles are put in our way to stop customers coming in – it’s another nail in the coffin,” he said.

“We are all working hard to keep our businesses going but you feel that you are always being hampered.”

Proposals to introduce parking fees on the market square were first announced in July 2011 amid fears free parking was causing a hazard with cars going round and round looking for a space, and causing congestion.

In the wake of objections from Ripon City Council members who feared the charges might harm traders, Coun Richard Cooper, the district council’s cabinet member for planning, transport and economic development, postponed a final decision until further reports had come through.

After a consultation period and reports from council officials, it was announced the revised charges would be put in place from January 11.

But a month after fees were introduced on the market square, city Coun Pauline McHardy contacted the Gazette this week to voice her continuing concerns.

She said: “I have spoken to about eight businesses and they all say they have been losing money since the charges came in.

“We should be throwing these shops a lifeline – we need the shops and we need the employment for people in Ripon.”