Published: 13:54, 12 June 2020
| Updated: 13:56, 12 June 2020
Eager customers looking forward to returning to the shops on Monday are going to face a hike in parking prices.
The increase in fees was agreed by Ashford Borough Council (ABC) in January, and implemented in April.
This will see stays of up to one hour increase from £1.10 to £1.20, and all-day stays in long-term car parks increase from £5 to £5.50.
An excerpt from the council report on the decision reads: "The main risk of increasing charges is that there is a consequential decrease in car park usage.
"Car park charges have not however been increased for three years and the increase is modest.
"They are also necessary to cover the rising costs of operating our car parks and necessary to enable introduce systems such and ANPR [Automatic Number-Plate Recognition] and virtual permitting which will be welcomed by our customers."
However, as the changes were brought in while the country was under lockdown, many residents are only discovering the new charges now.
And the decision to carry on with the plan despite shops and high streets needing support post-lockdown has sparked a furious response, with many feeling that the change should have been postponed.
Ashford business owner Shen Sen, who runs a number of sites including the John Wallis pub, said: "It was bad enough with the last prices, with this increase they are just going to drive more and more people away.
"Businesses in the Ashford high street were hardly seeing enough footfall before, and with coronavirus they need support.
"The council should be giving us free parking, not raising the prices."
"It feels like a stab in the back for Tenterden, it is shocking behaviour"
Mr Sen's thoughts were echoed by Tenterden resident Sue Ferguson, who sits on the town council and described the change as "really disappointing".
She said: "We need to all work together to get back on our feet, and the question this raises is are we really in this together?
"I'm understand this is a decision that was made a while ago but they had every chance to cancel it.
"Of course they are short on money but then so is everyone. Some of these shops might be on the brink after lockdown and they need support to get the footfall back.
"It feels like a stab in the back for Tenterden, it is shocking behaviour."
Tenterden Town Council also expressed its disappointment at the new measures.
In a press release about plans for the recovery of the high street, a spokesman said: "Disappointment was expressed by councillors at the decision by ABC to increase car parking charges in Tenterden from £1.10 to £1.20 an hour.
"They said this was not helpful to the town’s post-pandemic recovery."
An ABC spokesman said: "Following a review of parking charges last year it was agreed by cabinet in January to bring a slight increase to parking fees from April 1 this year.
"Our fees had previously not been increased for three years.
"We are currently working on improvements to our service which include the recent transfer of our mobile parking app from Parkmobile to RingGo, the UK's leading phone parking provider, which enables users to go cashless and avoid using payment machines.
"As well as this we are beginning to implement Automatic Number-Plate Recognition which is currently being installed at Elwick Place car park.
"We hope that through these improvements our customers will experience an even better, more efficient way to park in our borough as a result."
More by this authorAlex Jee
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