TRADERS will plead with a council not to increase parking charges as it could be a crushing blow to struggling town centres.
Leaders at Havant Borough Council are to meet tomorrow to discuss proposals to increase parking charges to generate an extra £180,000 a year.
But business leaders are worried any increase could be detrimental for shops in places like Emsworth, Mengham and Leigh Park that are struggling to compete with free parking at Tesco and Asda.
The charges were proposed in February, but were postponed after a review was called because of initial opposition.
The proposals included 12 car parks getting an increase of 70p to 80p for an hour and £1.50 to £1.60 for two hours.
In South Street, Emsworth, and Wellington Way, Waterlooville, the charge was proposed to increase to 90p for one hour and £1.80 for two hours.
Following the review, which was led by a panel of councillors, it is being recommended to freeze the increase at 80p for an hour and not have additional charges in Emsworth and Waterlooville.
But Brendan Gibb-Gray, chairman of Emsworth Business Association, said any increase at all is a bad move.
Mr Gibb-Gray, who will address the cabinet tomorrow, said: ‘So many businesses are struggling. They have had a bad year economically – with bad weather to boot. They need a break.
‘They are just holding their head above water.’
The council’s review also states that it is a ‘last chance saloon’ for some centres as shoppers are getting out of the habit of using them.
The review panel, led by Hayling councillor Andy Lenaghan, has recommended the council explore additional ways of generating the revenue, which is aimed at not putting up council tax.
A report recommends exploring reduced rate parking permits for shoppers and business workers.
Sunday parking charges could be introduced under the proposals, but councillors have said it would be kept low.
Cllr Lenaghan said: ‘Every year the budget turns out to be bun fighting over parking.
‘It was decided to have a thorough review because this happens every year.
‘We want to make parking more attractive and regenerate town centres.’
Cabinet leaders will make a final decision tomorrow at a meeting at The Plaza.