A row has erupted over the introduction of car parking charges on Bank Holidays.
Businesses say they are furious over the council’s decision to introduce charges on the eight or so public holidays during the year, claiming the move would discourage visitors from spending money in the city.
Jerry North, manager of St Nicholas Arcade in Lancaster, said the decision showed a “complete lack of understanding” of the difficulties faced by businesses in the city centre.
City councillors agreed to bring in Bank Holiday charges at a cabinet meeting last week, arguing that other places such as Morecambe, Preston, and the Lake District charged on these days.
It is estimated that the charges would bring in £5,000 in extra revenue for the city council, which businesses have described as a paltry amount compared to the damage it would do.
Coun Ron Sands, the city council’s cabinet member for culture, who has come under fire for saying that to not bring in the charges would be “insane”, said that the waiving of charges was “an anomoly that we could no longer continue”.
Lynne Ison, manager of Market Gate Shopping Centre said: “The city council’s decision can only be seen as a detrimental step to local businesses and does not encourage visitors or the community to support the local economy.
“Coun Sands’ comparison of Lancaster with the Lake District is absolutely ludicrous.”
St Nic’s manager Mr North said: “I’m one of many representatives of local business who are furious over the council’s decision.
“From my own viewpoint I think coun Sands’ comments show a complete lack of understanding of the difficulties that Lancaster City Centre businesses face in competing in attracting not just visitors but our own local shoppers to stay local.
“We provided the council with the footfall evidence to show the much lower numbers seen in the town on Bank Holidays in comparison to normal Mondays and this has been completely ignored.
“The people in the Lake District as coun Sands puts it have no worries about attracting visitors during Bank Holidays, that’s when visitor numbers are at their peak! If only the same could be said for Lancaster.”
In response to the backlash, coun Sands argued that people using council car parks in Lancaster on Bank Holidays were paying anyway.
“They simply assumed that it was right or expected to pay on Bank Holidays, and put their money into the machines without realising that there was uniquely no charge on these days,” he said.
Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) and Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce have also slammed the decision.
Paul Cusimano, chair of Lancaster Unlimited, tha name of Lancaster’s BID, said that the insanity seemed to lie with cabinet members, who, he said, provided no response to arguments that businesses put forward when the idea was first mooted.
Coun Tim Hamilton Cox, Cabinet member with responsibility for parking, said: “Increasing parking charges is always a difficult nettle to grasp and we understand businesses’ views. But at a time when we are facing unprecedented cuts to our income from the government, they are necessary to help us to continue to fund improvements.
“Both Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce and Lancaster BID were specifically consulted on the issue in December, giving them ample time to make their views known prior to Cabinet’s original consideration. Neither organisation, however, responded to that consultation.”