Traders hit out at return of town car park charges

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Traders in Gosport have slammed the decision to start charging shoppers to use the town's car parks.

Motorists must pay 20p an hour, or 50p for two hours, to use the short-stay car parks, which were free until December 31, 2010.

Charges were scrapped four years ago when a Labour/Lib Dem coalition took over the running of Gosport Borough Council.

Now, the ruling Conservatives have reinstated them.

A snap survey of 30 High Street traders carried out by The News reveals 80 per cent do not support the decision to charge shoppers for parking.

A further 63 per cent say the charges will harm their business.

'We have had a lot of complaints from customers,' said Gordon Cooper, owner of The News Boutique, in Gosport's High Street.

'It's not good, but what can we do about it?

'In tough times, it always seems to be the man on the street who gets hit.'

Charity shops say they will be worst hit, as volunteer workers will have to pay to help out.

'Our volunteers won't be able to park for free any more, which is a problem,' said Pauline Wellman, manager of the Oxfam shop.

'We can't afford to offset that for them, so now they have to pay. We'll stop getting volunteers.'

Shop owner Lynette Fossey hopes her business, Your Senses, will not be hit as long as costs are reasonable.

'It's been very busy here, despite the new charges,' she said.

'I do support them, as long as they don't go up too high.

'There needs to be some kind of income so everybody has to play their part.

'A lot of people do come here just to park up and then go over the water to Portsmouth.'

Two of the car parks - the Mumby Road bus station car park and the Minnit Road North car park - have also been changed to long stay.

They will cost 70p an hour to park in.

Councillor Mark Hook, leader of the council, said: 'Last year we were running the car parks at a loss of 118,000.

'There is a 2m deficit in the grant we received from the government and we have to balance the books. If the deficit isn't made up then residents get hit with an increase in council tax. I will do everything I can to ensure there will be no increase in council tax.'