Businesses in Hebden Bridge have been left outraged by plans to hike up parking charges, fearing another blow to the town after devastating flooding last year.
It has been revealed that it could cost up to £1 AN HOUR for spaces in Albert Street, Crown Street, Cheetham Street, Carlton Street and Keighley Road.
An increase to 70p in the Market Place, Garden Street, New Road, St Pol and St George’s Square car parks and 50p or £3 for more than six hours in the Station Road car park are also being proposed.
In Todmorden, the increases are not as dramatic, but could see charges to off street parking in Halifax Road, Lever Street and Union Street South rise to 60p per hour. The town’s Fielden Square car park may also be lost.
In Hebden Bridge, many believe a new, bigger car park should be built to accommodate tourists and locals alike.
Stephen Maskill, who owns a butchers in Crown Street, has slammed the proposals.
He said: “How many more nails do they need to fix down the coffin of the community in Hebden Bridge.
“We have been waiting for a car park for 30 years. They treat locals and visitors as a cash cow.
“It’s short-termism - if anywhere in Calderdale is crying out for a car park, Hebden Bridge is the place.”
Fran Sierevogel, of The Old Tree House, Market Street, added: “I think Hebden Bridge is really lacking in parking - people drive round and round looking for a space.
“If they increase charges, it’s just another thing that is going to put people off coming in.”
Claire Grey, owner of The Lamppost Cafe, Bridge Gate, also raised concerns.
She said a park and ride scheme would be ideal as a way to encourage people into the town and cut congestion in and around the town.
“Putting the charges up isn’t going to create more spaces,” she said.
“We have lost the coach parties coming in and people have messaged us on Facebook saying they were going to visit, but couldn’t find a space to park.”
Eileen Kelly, secretary of the Hebden Bridge Business Forum, added: “The proposed price increase, without any prior consultation, is totally unacceptable.
“The businesses in Hebden Bridge are still recovering from the Boxing Day floods, with some still not back on their feet.
“A price increase at this stage is very insensitive to say the least. This will discourage people from visiting Hebden Bridge at a time when we should be offering incentives to encourage visitors.”
Upper Calder Valley Renaissance has set up an online survey, where businesses based in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge can share their views. You can find the link on its Twitter account @UCVR_
“Since the Boxing Day floods we have worked closely with Calderdale’s business team. We jointly produced an economic impact report with the University of Leeds which outlined the serious nature of disruption to small businesses and a minimum two year recovery period,” said UCVR.
“Considering that economic report, we were surprised at these parking fee proposals, but more at the timing of such an announcement, as many town centre businesses are still struggling to regain footfall and trade.
“We know from the response to our business-to-business mentoring scheme that some traders are finding it hard to cope, are exhausted and they would like some good news.
“For our part we just want traders and residents to have their say on this and so have established an online survey for them to do so. We will present the findings to the council and business networks to inform their discussions on the proposals.”
Anthony Hodgins, Mayor of Hebden Royd, said he was “outraged” at the proposals, particularly when Hebden Bridge is still recovering from flooding.
Despite that, he said: “Calderdale has had to budget for massive cuts imposed by this government, and huge savings have had to be made with some services cut heavily.
“Unfortunately Calderdale don’t have many areas in which to increase their budget.
“I think some car parking charges are reasonable but some are not - the increase for on street parking from 40p to £1.00 an hour for instance is too much - and I think a compromise should be reached.
“Personally I would like to see all parking in our towns free of charge, but sadly this is not the economic climate that we live in.”
Local Liberal Democrats are challenging Calderdale Council’s Labour cabinet over the plans.
“When the Council last increased parking charges, it followed on from consultation with the public about the Council’s budget,” said Janet Battye, Todmorden town councillor and former Calderdale Council leader.
“Local people clearly said that they would be prepared to pay more for some services, such as parking, if it protected services.
“There is no clear link this time and the public have not been consulted. The first reaction from local people is one of horror and upset at the potential impact on both towns.
“Charging £1 an hour for parking in Hebden Bridge is like adding a surcharge to a loaf of bread, a bag of chips, or a cup of coffee. Local people need to shop or go to the dentist, and we want and need tourists to continue to enjoy a visit. This is going to drive people out of the town centre, onto unadopted side streets or the main road, or discourage them from coming at all. It will be cheaper to go the large supermarkets in Burnley or Halifax.”