PLANS to introduce pay and display parking charges for the first time in Walsall’s district centres will “kill off” towns, worried campaigners fear.
Shoppers will have to pay £1 per four hours for parking in council-owned car parks in Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston and Willenhall, under a proposal outlined in Walsall Council’s four-year budget plan.
The move, which could be introduced as soon as next year, is expected to rake in £100,000 as the authority seeks to save £86 million over the next four years.
But the proposal has been met with backlash by concerned residents, who have set up petitions opposing the plans.
Willenhallaywe Action Group – set up by online community group Willenhall Ay We.co.uk – have launched a Facebook page and online petition opposing the proposals in Willenhall.
“Here we are trying to push and promote Willenhall and to encourage users and then this,” said Kalie Plant, of the group.
“It’s just not right and we are going to try and call for Willenhall folk to oppose this. It’s not what we are about and it’s time Willenhall folk realise they don’t have to automatically take changes proposed, regardless of who is in power.”
More than 100 people have liked the group’s Facebook page, with more than 300 backing the online petition.
Among those commenting on the petition is Lee Cooper, from Willenhall.
He commented: “The car parks were given to the people of Willenhall by a kind gentleman to use for free. If they start charging, it will kill off the town.”
Separate campaigners were out on the streets of Bloxwich this weekend, also opposing the move.
Bloxwich campaigner Matt Follows collected more than 100 signatures from residents, local business owners and market traders over concern the charges will have on trade in the area.
“Shoppers and traders alike are put off by these charges imposed by the council,” he added.
“Cllr Coughlan should listen to Bloxwich and understand that parking charges are not good for business. We need to keep it free in Bloxwich town centre.”
Employees of partner agencies located in district centres will also have to pay the parking charges.
Police officers who use the Station Street car park in Bloxwich will not escape from the charges, a report adds.
The report said: “Income will be used to offset the costs of maintaining and operating the car parks, ensuring the users of those car parks contribute toward the cost of their ongoing provision.”
Councillor Sean Coughlan, leader of Walsall Council, stressed that the move was under consultation.
“There’s always the potential that car parking charges could be an issue for traders and the people that shop in district centres,” he said.
“This is a charge that people have never had and as I’ve said before, services that are free may have to be paid for because we are under so much pressure.
“But nothing has been agreed and I’d encourage people to make their views known.”
Anyone wanting to sign the Willenhall petition should visit Online Petition
And anyone who wants to pledge their support to the Bloxwich petition should email firstname.lastname@example.org