Folkestone traders feel 'misled' over council's parking charge plan
FURIOUS town centre traders feel "misled" over an apparent council u-turn on controversial parking charges.
The council insists it has listened to the results of the consultation on plans to charge for on-street parking in central Folkestone and that a "fair solution" has been offered. But a report to be considered by the overview and scrutiny committee on Monday recommends only "minor changes" to the original plan.
Although leader Robert Bliss announced in March that the council would "drop proposals for on-street charges" in Sandgate Road and Tontine Street, the latest plans show that residents' and business permit holders – who have already paid – will be able to use part of both roads, without having to comply with the one-hour-stay limit.
Sandgate Road retailer Martyn Jackson said: "Out of everything the council's done in the last six months, this is the worst, they've misled us.
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"Bliss said there would be no charges in those streets but this is introducing a paid element – how can we trust someone like that?
"If even ten of those spaces are taken by permit holders, we'd lose 30,000 car churns a year and, if they each spent £10, that's £300,000. But in reality, they'll all be taken. I can't believe that, after six months' hard labour, this is all they've come back with."
Another amendment is to introduce a permit scheme for hotel guests, at £3.60 per night.
Daniel Sangiuseppe, director of the Burlington and speaking for the Folkestone, Hythe and District Hotel and Catering Association, said: "Folkestone will be closed – for business, for staff and for visitors.
"I own a hotel in Eastbourne, where the council introduced parking charges a few years ago, and footfall and traffic flow fell straight away. People said they wouldn't come back if they had to pay to park.
"Eastbourne's a major destination and the charge was 50p a day. Now it's £1. Folkestone is nothing like as established but Shepway District Council wants to charge nearly four times as much – it's -disgusting. This will cripple business – and, politically, it's suicide for this council."
Councillor Malcolm Dearden, SDC cabinet member for parking, said nearly 300 spaces on Folkestone's main shopping streets would remain free.
He added: "The consultation report stresses the importance of finding a solution that balances these respective needs. I believe we have done this in a fair way.
"I would like to thank everyone who took part in our consultation. The revised proposals clearly show we have listened to their views.
"They will still help deliver the aims of our strategy and balance residents' and businesses' needs. We will review arrangements after six months to see how they are working."
More parking news, page 5