COUNCIL chiefs have been slammed for hiking up car parking charges in Paisley – just when the town centre needs visitors more than ever before.
Motorists are outraged at Renfrewshire Council’s latest move in their efforts to plug a £75million blackhole.
The new parking charges were introduced earlier this month as part of a controversial range of fee increases for the use of community facilities.
But traders fear that dearer parking will chase away shoppers.
Drivers are being forced to fork out an extra 10p for every half an hour they leave their cars in metered street bays in the town centre.
Parking for two hours in Causeyside Street, for example, will now cost £1.60 – a 33 per cent increase.
Those who use council-run car parks will also be charged an extra 10p an hour to use the facilities.
Now angry motorists and politicians have slammed the rise – claiming it could put the brakes on any hopes of revitalising Paisley’s struggling town centre.
Leonard Dyer, 62, owner of Paisley Picture Framers store in Causeyside Street, said that the parking situation in the town centre is “crucifying” trade.
Leonard, who’s been in business there for 20 years, said: “With the recession and the parking problem combined, I reckon my takings are down 50 to 60 per cent in the last two years.
“This latest parking rise will only make matters worse.
“My shop is not the kind of business you just nip in and out of in two seconds. People sometimes spend half an hour browsing round the store for the right frame. But I’ve already had customers tell me they can’t come in because they can’t get parked nearby.”
Computing student Ian Stevenson drops his car off at the car park at Weighouse Close each day while he attends classes at the University of West of Scotland.
But the 42-year-old says he will have to think again about driving to uni.
“You can’t park anywhere in Paisley without having to pay and now I hear they are putting up the price even further. It’s ridiculous.
“I am a student at university and I’m on a tight budget as it is. Now I’ll have to pay out even more and I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford to do so.
“I don’t come into Paisley often to do shopping and things like this will make me even less likely to pop by.”
David Campbell, from Dykebar, added: “I park my car in the West End most days but this is becoming a real burden financially.
“For four hours it will now cost me £2.40 when it was just £1.80 a few days ago. That’s almost £50 a month and who can afford that just to park their car?
“At a time when the council are supposed to be trying to get people to start shopping in the town centre again, this just seems like a huge own goal.”
Labour Councillor Mark Macmillan also blasted the decision, which was approved by the SNP-led council administration.
He said: “This move is absolutely outrageous. The SNP said they would revitalise Paisley’s town centre when they came into power.
“But I fail to see how hiking up parking charges is going to help bring shops and business back to the area.”
A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “We have tried to balance the needs of residents, shoppers, businesses and the wider regeneration of Paisley town centre in our approach to parking zoning and charging.
“The parking charges for Paisley town centre (Zone 1) will be the same as they were two years ago.
“As for the broader regeneration of Paisley town centre, the council has made major investments. It has helped take forward a popular events programme, better road access for motorists, the partnership approach to revive the Arnotts building and secured new housing on part of the site of the council HQ in Cotton Street.
“We also liaise with commercial operators to provide spaces and had free parking in the run up to Christmas.
“Given the serious financial situation the council is facing, we have to look at the income we can generate from the likes of parking charges.
“Overall, there has to be a balance between investing for the future and bringing in the income which ultimately helps fund that investment.”