Fed-up town centre traders say they have noticed a big drop in footfall since a multi-storey car park closed suddenly.
Council bosses were forced to shut the site in Edinburgh Road, Ashford, for safety reasons when debris began falling from the ceiling during last month’s heatwave.
Just two weeks' before, the three lifts at the site - notorious for breaking down - were closed after failing a safety inspection.
It remains unclear when the 289-space facility will open, but the adjacent Park Mall car park has partially reopened, with drivers able to use the ground floor.
Jane Watts, owner of independent fashion retailer Jane’s Boutique in Park Mall, said: “Customers are finding that they can’t get parked in Park Mall because unless you’re in there before 9am, there are not enough spaces because workers are using it.
“I don’t think they will be in any rush to open the top floor.
“Park Mall is just quiet anyway so it’s hard to say if it has made a difference but it was better when they were both open.
“We were doing really well up until Covid and since then it is quiet up town because I think people are used to shopping online now.”
Ayten Yilmaz, owner of By The Tank cafe, has also noticed fewer customers have been coming through the door since Edinburgh Road closed.
“It’s quieter and people are struggling to park,” she said.
“We have lost customers because other car parks are not close enough. They used to come past Wilko but they are now using County Square and it’s too far for people.
“Normally we are busy all day but now nobody is coming.
“The car parks need to reopen in town.”
Vince Monticelli, who owns The Record Store, feels Park Mall has become a forgotten part of the town.
He added: “As soon as we realised the car park was back we thought, great, but then we realised they’ve shut the other one so there is not enough parking.
“People turn up to Edinburgh Road, realise it’s closed, go to Park Mall and it’s rammed because you can’t go upstairs.
“It does generally seem to be a bit like a ghost town at times.
“We are alright in some ways because people come here because they want something specific.
“Park Mall is the forgotten part of Ashford.
“The car parks need to be back to full capacity and more needs to be done to send people down here.”
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) says it is too early to say when Edinburgh Road car park will reopen.
A spokesman said: “We are currently in the process of having a survey completed to understand the extent of works required.
“Once we have received the survey results and reviewed them we will be in a better position to advise when the car park will reopen.”
Melissa Dawkins, founder of Made in Ashford in Park Mall, says the closure of Edinburgh Road has not had an impact on footfall for her business.
She added: “Despite thinking it was going to have an impact on business, trade over the last few weeks has been really good.
“It’s great the Park Mall car park has reopened, even if it is just the ground floor, but apparently that does get filled up very quickly because there is limited parking.
“I have also heard the Vicarage Lane and Elwick Place car parks are very busy because they’re taking the brunt of Edinburgh Road being closed which is not ideal for people with accessibility issues.
“It’s slightly more difficult for customers to get in, but I don’t think it has put people off.”
ABC says the opening hours of Park Mall car park have been extended to mirror that of Edinburgh Road.
The site is open from 6am to 8.30pm Monday to Friday and 6am to 7.30pm Saturday and Sunday.
The car park remains cashless only, with automatic number-plate recognition technology yet to be installed.
ABC says “our contractor is awaiting delivery of final parts and these will be installed once received”.