A CAMPAIGN against Cotswold District Council’s proposed parking charge increase has been launched by Cirencester Chamber of Commerce. 

Last month CDC finance chiefs announced they faced the toughest budget challenge in years - facing £3m in costs due to inflation. 

As a result they are considering potential increases in car parking charges as well as in garden waste fees and council tax. 

In response, Cirencester Chamber is now asking residents and businesses to sign an online petition to show opposition against the council’s plans. 

The group has also criticised CDC's new cashless parking scheme, which requires drivers to use a card, call, text, or download an app on their smartphone to pay for a space via new machines.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Representatives from Cirencester Chamber of Commerce: Karley Coles, Heather Arthurs and Ian Nash from Gardiner Haskins, President Adam Vines, Vice-Presidents Hannah Hockley and Fran Coulter, and Secretary Sarah SomersRepresentatives from Cirencester Chamber of Commerce: Karley Coles, Heather Arthurs and Ian Nash from Gardiner Haskins, President Adam Vines, Vice-Presidents Hannah Hockley and Fran Coulter, and Secretary Sarah Somers (Image: Cirencester Chamber of Commerce)

Adam Vines, managing owner of the Lounge Design, said increasing parking fees could further damage businesses and could affect footfall. 

Mr Vines, who also chairs the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce, said the plans could ‘cripple’ the town. 

He said: “It has come to our attention that the Cotswold District Council cabinet has recently launched its budget consultation 2023-24 which proposes, amongst other things, to increase car parking charges. 

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“It has also been announced that the district council is removing the option of paying by cash in the Brewery, Forum, Sheep Street and Waterloo car parks from Monday, December 12 2022.

“The availability and cost of car parking impact on how long visitors remain in Cirencester, or even visit our town and consequently, how much they spend whilst here. 

“Businesses are already struggling with the high rents and rates in the town and this proposal will undoubtedly have a bearing on footfall. 

“We understand the environmental impact of traffic pollution, and what the council is trying to achieve here but there needs to be a much-improved public transport network as a viable alternative, otherwise this could cripple our town.

“We are therefore launching an online petition for both businesses and residents for which we would appreciate your support so we can show the council that there is opposition to their plan.  

“We need to get this petition to the council before December 9 when the budget consultation closes. 

“The findings of the consultation will then be shared with councillors before they make decisions at a meeting of the council in February 2023.” 

The proposed parking fee changes have also not gone down well with Conservative group leader Tony Berry, who previously branded CDC’s plans as a 'war on drivers'.

He said: "We are under pressure because of inflation and people who park are just easy targets.

“Cirencester is surviving well as a town because of the shops and heritage but there is only so much people can take."

Cllr Mike Evemy, CDC deputy leader and cabinet member for finance said the district council needs to raise £700,000. 

He said: "We are consulting on the draft budget for 2023/24 and we want residents, businesses and organisations to give us their views. 

“We are facing exceptional cost pressures of £3 million next year, almost 25% of our net revenue budget.

“The majority of those pressures have been caused by the high levels of inflation due to Putin's war in Ukraine.  

"We need to make savings and increase revenues to minimise what we'll need to take from reserves to balance the budget.  

“We are planning to make £1 million in cost savings and raise £700,000 in revenue to close our budget gap.  

“The Conservatives are completely ignoring this challenge and say we shouldn't even ask people their views on whether we should raise £165,000 to help with this by charging for parking in all our car parks on Sundays or increase charges by 10p an hour on other days to raise the same amount.  

“Liberal Democrats believe in prudent and sound budgeting and we are keen to hear the public's views about our options to balance the council's budget and would encourage readers to take part."

You can view Cirencester chamber’s petition here - https://www.cirencesterchamber.org.uk/parking/

You can comment on CDC’s budget consultation survey which is live until December 9 at www.cotswold.gov.uk/budget