Thousands back campaign for free car-parking

PLEASE SIGN ME! -- the petition, calling for free parking in the town centre, which sat on Hucknall High Street, inviting shoppers to sign -- DISPIC NHUD12-1269-1

PLEASE SIGN ME! -- the petition, calling for free parking in the town centre, which sat on Hucknall High Street, inviting shoppers to sign -- DISPIC NHUD12-1269-1

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A PETITION calling for parking charges to be scrapped in Hucknall has been signed by more than 4,000 supporters.

Ashfield District Council took the controversial decision earlier this year to increase the cost of using its pay-and-display car parks in the town.

The price for one hour of parking has now doubled from 20p to 40p.

The move has angered many, including Hucknall resident Chris Thorne, who has launched the petition campaign as part of wider calls for more to be done to support Hucknall town centre.

He has collected the signatures in only two weeks, via a sign-up sheet that is stationed at the corner of High Street and Watnall Road.

And his campaign has been backed by the result of a vote in last week’s Dispatch, which revealed that 95% of readers are in favour of free parking.

“The increase in charges just doesn’t make sense,” said Mr Thorne (62), of Braunton Close.

“I cannot understand the logic. It is just going to turn shoppers away from using the town centre. It doesn’t make sense when so many shops are already closed.

“When I first moved to Hucknall in the early 1970s, the town centre was booming. There is no excuse for the decline on the High Street and increased parking charges will make things worse.”

Mr Thorne’s petition has passed a 1,000-name threshold to force a debate on car parking at a meeting of Ashfield Council.

His initiative has received support from Coun Mick Murphy (Con), of Hucknall, who is the lead member for community safety at Notts County Council. He said: “The increase in parking charges is outrageous.”

Two years ago, Coun Murphy ran a petition calling for free parking in the town or for drivers to be allowed to park for the first hour for free.

He collected more than 2,500 signatures on that occasion. But his proposal failed.

Coun Murphy added: “If there are doubts about the impact of free parking, let’s have a six-month trial and see what happens.”

Ashfield Council says the increase in parking charges is the first in more than a decade and points out that they are still lower than many neighbouring districts, including Mansfield.

The council’s deputy leader, Coun John Wilmott (Lab), of Hucknall, said: “I don’t think anyone is happy about increasing charges.

“But we have only a certain amount of money and the increase in parking charges is something we came up with in a bid to continue running crucial frontline services, which we are doing.”