‘Pay and display’ Sidmouth economy fear

PARKING meters in Sidmouth town centre will “unfairly” punish businesses and boost supermarkets and out-of-town retailers.

PARKING meters in Sidmouth town centre will “unfairly” punish businesses and boost supermarkets and out-of-town retailers.

That was the reaction of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce chairman Richard Eley to proposals to introduce ‘pay and display’ in the town.

Devon County Council (DCC) chiefs argued this week the move will improve the highways management, make little difference, and that extra funds will go to supported bus services.

Mr Eley said it was ironic the chamber recently worked with the authority to reduce pavement clutter and make streets easier and safer for pedestrians to navigate.

“Now they wish to increase the number of obstacles,” said Mr Eley, adding: “The proposed charges are modest, but they will have a negative impact on the town’s economy.

“One of the most chilling comments made by the highways team at County Hall was they were not interested at all in the economic impact of their proposals.

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“The big concern is they will quickly seek to increase these charges, and the free half an hour will soon go.

“The most depressing aspect is the move reveals County Hall has no understanding of the pressures facing business in general, and town centres in particular. Instead of seeking to make savings by improving efficiency, their first instinct is to introduce what is, in truth, another stealth tax.”

Mr Eley labelled suggestions revenue will be utilised to improve local services as “nonsense and spin,” adding: “Parking machines are an inefficient way of collecting tax, and will damage town centres unfairly, giving yet further advantage to supermarkets and out-of-town retail operators.”

Sidmouth Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highways and transportation, told the Herald: “Whatever happens it’s to improve highway management in the town.

“On-street ‘park and display’ meters will be free for the first 30 minutes or 60pence for an hour. Disabled people can park for free for as long as they like. Most people who go into town only go there for 30 minutes.

“It’s not a stealth tax. Parking enforcement was handed to us by the police and we’ve got to do it. Revenue raised goes towards supported bus services. It’s important to maintain them for people who live in rural areas.”

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