Members of a gym chain will be able to park for free at an outlet centre despite charges being introduced.
Earlier this week, KentOnline revealed shoppers will have to pay a fee to park when visiting Chatham Dockside later this month.
It has been confirmed that from Monday, September 25, motorists will only be able to stay at the complex, near St Mary’s Island, for one hour for free.
Chatham Maritime Car Park Ltd, which manages the car park, said the decision to charge visitors who stayed for longer had to be made after a survey revealed more than 200 cars were left overnight by people not using the shops and attractions.
It is believed they are residents and people working nearby who will now have the option to buy a permit that can only be used outside of trading hours.
A number of free passes will also be available to employees in a new staff parking scheme.
The cost will be £1.25 for one to two hours, £2.50 for two to three hours, £3.50 for three to four hours and £5 for four to five hours. There is a charge of £8 for more than five hours and to park overnight will cost £10.
Yet, fitness chain PureGym, which has a branch in Leviathan Way, has since told its members they will have access to three hours of free parking – but only if using the gym.
The message sent to gymgoers read: “You may be aware of some changes to the parking at Chatham Dockside that will soon be in effect.
“The changes are set to start from Monday, September 25 and we want to ensure you have minimal disruption to your workouts.
“We have some great news. As a PureGym member, you will get three hours of free parking when you visit the gym.
“We will be back in touch soon with more information regarding how to validate your parking.”
A PureGym spokesman added: “At PureGym, we want to make working out as convenient as possible for our members which is why we are pleased to be able to reassure PureGym Chatham users that they will be able to access three hours of free parking when they visit the gym from September 25.
“Mental and physical well-being has never been more important, so we are delighted members are able to continue to work out at our Chatham gym unaffected by the recent changes.”
Despite this, shoppers fear the new parking charges will damage the centre’s footfall.
Taxi driver Angelo Filippone who was on his way to the cinema said he will now be going elsewhere, such as Hempstead Valley which offers free parking, once the changes come into effect.
The 63-year-old said: “There is nothing much down here anyway, apart from The Range, and if that suffers with parking charges the outlet centre will be dead.
“The parking charges will kill the centre. I will not be coming back.”
A poll carried out by KentOnline revealed that 85% of readers will stop using the shopping centre once the charges are introduced.
When asked ‘Will paying for parking put you off going to Dockside?’ More than 1,500 readers said yes. Only 15% said no.
The shopping centre opened in 2003 and parking charges were initially brought in but scrapped after public backlash and fears it would not survive.
In a trading update for the centre in July 2019, CHD Property reported the shopping centre had an annual footfall of 2.15 million, while the nearby Odeon cinema had 400,000 visitors per annum.