COUNCILLORS were told that Hucknall is “dying, slowly but surely” as the campaign calling for car-parking charges to be scrapped in the town reached the chamber of Ashfield District Council.
Hucknall resident Chris Thorne is behind the public call and earlier this year launched a petition in response to the price for parking for one hour in the town’s council-run car parks being doubled from 20p to 40p.
Almost 5,000 backers added their name to the petition, which was presented to the chief executive of Ashfield Council last month.
The level of support sparked a compulsory debate at the council at a recent full meeting.
There, Mr Thorne said that the issue was not about free parking but about the overall regeneration of Hucknall’s High Street.
He explained that one of the ways to ‘stop the rot’ would be to scrap the parking charges, encouraging more people to shop in and visit the town.
He cited the increasing range of goods and services that Tesco offers as being a ‘crucial factor in the demise and closure of many long-established businesses in the town centre’, while it also allows up to three hours of free parking.
Mr Thorne criticised the council for not doing more to encourage small businesses into Hucknall, and said that the increase in parking charges ‘is already diverting shoppers elsewhere’.
After hearing what Mr Thorne had to say, Coun Jason Zadrozny (Lib Dem) said that he raised some ‘very, very pertinent questions’ and added that the council needs to improve the occupancy rate of shops across the district.
Coun Tom Hollis (Lib Dem) said that to him it was a ‘no-brainer’ to stop charging for car parks because it would mean more people coming into the town centres.
“We are going to make more money from people going into our town centres spending money in our shops,” he said.
However, Coun Chris Baron, a Hucknall Labour member of the council, put forward a resolution to refer the petition to the council’s Cabinet for a more detailed discussion.
This was passed, with 21 councillors voting for and three abstentions.
He said that local businesses have to do something to attract people to come and use their business and to compete with Tesco.
He added that the 20p increase in car parking charges was the first rise in a decade and said that the car parks make a loss, with the council having to pay business rates, maintenance cost and bills for water, electricity and CCTV cameras on them.
“If we were suddenly to say there would be free car parking across the district, it would cost the authority just under £300,000 a year,” he said.
After the meeting, Mr Thorne declared that this was not the end of his campaign and he would fight on.