TRADERS have slammed plans by Stroud District Council which could see car parking charges increased.

SDC has announced a review which could see charges brought in at free sites and price hikes introduced elsewhere.

Most of the 38 SDC-run car parks, such as Nailsworth and Minchinhampton, are free while some, such as Stonehouse, have low charges of 20p per hour.

Other sites such as Church Street in Stroud start at 80p per hour but have a two-hour maximum stay. There are seven sites in Stroud town centre.

SDC says Government funding cuts mean it needs to bring in further capital, hence the changes. However, traders in Stroud fear this could have a dramatic negative effect on trade.

Juliet Farrington, who manages Moonflower, said: “We have enough trouble getting people to come into town as it is.

“If the costs do go higher we would push for free parking after 3pm, that way parents coming to pick up their kids from school can do their shopping easily.”

Meanwhile, Eclipse owner Sid Copp called for other options to be considered such as an incentive scheme.

“They could introduce a tear-off strip on each parking ticket which would mean if the customer spent say £25 in a town centre shop which has signed up to the scheme they would be able to park for free,” he said.

“The car park across from the police station is only £2.50 all day and I would happily pay that for a customer if they came into my shop and spent £25.

“I think that could work if enough traders got involved.”

Karen van Kalmthout, owner of Fortune Faeries, said: “We should be trying to encourage more people to come into the town centre, not pushing them away.”

One trader, who asked not to be named, said the increase, however little, would have a severe impact.

“Little amounts of money like this can have a big impact over the course of a week or a month, and these are people who have already been hit hard, independent businesses which have battled through the recession,” he said.

“It will be extremely detrimental and it could push trade to other towns instead if it becomes too costly to park in Stroud.”

Many traders felt that the two-hour limit at sites such as Church Street was too short and led to widespread ‘clock-watching,’ with customers having to rush back to their cars.

However, they felt that the £2.50 all-day parking at Parliament Street was reasonable.

SDC leader Steve Lydon said a consultation was due soon.

“We’re currently reviewing our existing car park charges and we will undertake a full district-wide parking review in the next six months, which will include appropriate consultation,” he said.

“Our parking charges have not increased since 2011.”

Town and parish councils will also be consulted. Stroud mayor Kevin Cranston said: “It is important that any review includes all of the currently free car parks so that there is a level playing field for all towns, which currently is not the case.

“We would also expect SDC to take into consideration the policies concerning car parking contained in Stroud’s Neighbourhood Development Plan.”

The proposals came to light at a Dursley Town Council meeting last Tuesday attended by the SNJ’s sister title the Gazette.

Dursley district councillor Doina Cornell said the changes were being considered because of reductions in Government funding.