WITH parking meters being installed across Northwich, a group of campaigners are calling on residents, shoppers and business owners to join together for a last-gasp attempt at stopping the parking charges in the town centre.

The Guardian reported in August that parking charges would be introduced at various car parks in the town by the end of November, with costs ranging from 20p for two hours to £3 for seven to 10 hours.

Meters have now been rolled out at six town centre car parks, costing more than £400,000 in total, ready for the imminent launch of paid-for parking.

But campaigners Dave Gradwell, Adrian Leech, Cllr Gaynor Sinar and Cllr Helen Weltman believe it is not too late to force a U-turn on the decision.

“What we’re about is making the most of Northwich and we don’t want anything that detracts from that,” Dave said. “This will not help the town at all. Everyone we speak to is up in arms about it.”

“There are still many buildings that are empty shells and have been that way for months and months. Why discourage people to come and spend their money in the town?

“It seems so counterproductive in a time that we are trying so hard to encourage people to shop here - why put up any barriers, no matter how big or small?

“We don’t want parking charges full stop. But if there were real quality shops and attractions in the town centre, we could understand it. Hopefully those shops will be here soon enough, but until then we are sending people elsewhere by creating these barriers.

“The high street is suffering. It is suffering everywhere. So we have got to do everything we can to fight against hat and give people a reason to come and shop in the town. These parking charges, no matter how much, will put another nail in the coffin of Northwich.”

Conservative councillor Gaynor Sinar has been an active campaigner against the parking charges for the past two years.

She is also the owner of Curtain Magic in High Street, and says from a business owner, attracting people to come and work in the town centre will become a real concern.

Cllr Sinar said: “I’ve been into 30 shops in town and they have all supported us and taken copies of the petition.

“All my staff are now going to get a parking tax to come to work. People working in the town centre will now have to account for around £350 out of their salary and that’s now another barrier of getting people to come and work in the town.”

But the council says that the idea of the charges is to encourage workers to use car parks further away from the town centre to avoid the small charges adding up over a full year, and therefore create more space for shoppers.

Cllr Karen Shore, the council’s cabinet member for environment, has responded by saying that the council expects the charges to have a positive effect on the town.

Cllr Shore said: “Northwich town centre parking charges are set at very modest levels and are aimed at freeing up space in the central car parks for shoppers and leisure users and at encouraging commuters to use car parks on the edge of the town centre.

“For these reasons, they are expected to have a positive not detrimental effect on the town’s economy.

“Parking surveys have shown that too many central spaces are used for long stay, reducing space for shoppers. In addition, some car parks remain free, such as Barons Quay, that is free for up to four hours for retail and leisure use.”

The full charges for car parks are as follows:

Market Car Park, Victoria Club Car Park and Watermans Car Park will be 20p for one to two hours, 50p for three to four hours, £1 for five to six hours and £3 for seven to 10 hours.

Verdin and Memorial Court Car Parks will be 20p for one to two hours, 50p for three to four hours, 80p for five to six hours and £1.10 for seven to eight hours, and £1.50 for nine to 10 hours. A three hours free parking period will be given to leisure users.

Cumberland Street Car Park will be £1 for a full day and Barons Quay, Zion Street, Old Depot Site and Park Street Car Parks will all remain free.

Those wanting to sign the petition can find copies in several shops and locations in the town centre.

These are: Barons Lounge, Benny Bings, Bratts, Crafty Stiches, Curtain Magic, Egg/Pet stall outdoor market, Frankie Howards Coffee Shop, Headway Charity Shop, High Street Barber Shop, Holland & Barratt, Hollins and Hollinshead, Hormbreys Butcher Indoor Market, Ink Doctor, Kanya, Macouti, Salty Dog, and Timpsons.