Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 10:32 UK

Council plan to stop free parking

Pay and display machine
Some retailers fear on-street parking charges will damage business

Free street parking could be scrapped in all coastal resorts and market towns in Devon.

At the moment, charges for street parking only apply in main shopping areas, including Exeter, Torbay and Plymouth.

However the county council plans to introduce charges in 19 other areas after local consultation.

It said it would mean all towns are treated equally and short-stay parking would be less open to abuse.

Cash raised by parking charges would be used to help improve transport links, the council said.

We're in danger of turning our high streets into ghost towns
David Sheppard, Federation of Small Businesses

But the Federation of Small Businesses has criticised the plan, saying it would be a "nail in the coffin" for local shops.

Spokesman David Sheppard said: "Local authorities are using parking charges as a source of revenue and in market towns across the country, this strategy is bleeding our high streets dry."

"Parking should be seen as a vital service which is an integral part of transport policy and not as a quick means of raising revenue."

Mr Sheppard said on-street charges were likely to drive local people away from their high street to out-of-town shopping centres.

"That's going to be detrimental to small retailers who are already struggling in one of the worst recessions we've ever had in this country," he said.

"We're in danger of turning our high streets into ghost towns."

Lester Wilmington, from Devon County Council, said limited waiting was the most difficult to enforce for local authorities and was an inefficient use of enforcement officers' time.

Local support

"Important central locations need turnover of spaces, more accessibility to businesses and facilities," he said.

"In order to introduce that sort of turnover in some other towns in the county, on-street pay and display is being proposed."

Mr Wilmington said the main aim was to ensure short-term parking spaces were used for the benefit of local businesses and shops.

But some local retailers believe parking charges are more likely to have the opposite effect.

"I think it's horrendous. It will cut down on traffic coming in and we won't get the local people who, on the whole, support local businesses," said Marjorie Jarvis, who owns the Secret Garden shop in Sidmouth.

"Local businesses won't survive - we're struggling as it is."

The council said no charges will be brought in until there has been full consultation with parish, town and district councils and local residents.

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