Get the message, County Hall?

Petition opposing the introduction of on-street parking charges in Honiton is presented to Councillor Stuart Hughes at a meeting of Honiton Town Council.

HONITON has sent Devon County Council a clear message: on-street parking charges are not wanted.

The message, in the form of a petition, was presented to county councillor Stuart Hughes by business leader Colin Wright at the December meeting of Honiton Town Council on Monday night.

Mr Hughes and county officer Lester Wilmington attended the meeting to hear what local councillors had to say about the controversial proposal.

Councillors heard the new charges aim to plug a deficit caused by the cost of parking enforcement and that the move was to ensure that towns made a contribution to the costs. Motorists will get the first half an hour free, which, Mr Wilmington said, would increase turn over as people would not be staying longer than they should.

Councillors raised concerns about the impact the proposals would have on trade in the town.

Councillor Peter Halse described it as a way of fining people for stopping in the town.

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Councillor Michael Teare said: “It is another disadvantage to traders in High Street and will be an advantage for out-of-town traders like supermarkets and retailers.

“I have a lot of concerns about introducing something like this in this town and it would not be helpful at this time.”

He also feared that people would only park for 30 minutes and return to their cars to avoid charges.

“It would limit what people can do here in the town,” he said, pointing out less trade could be done in Honiton.

Councillor Vernon Whitlock, the deputy mayor, said that it appeared that Devon County Council was penalising small businesses and supporting the supermarkets.

Concerns were also raised in relation to the ancient market charter in the town, which sees traders using the High Street two days a week.

Mr Wilmington said: “The market would operate exactly as it does today.

“There would be no change in the way the market operates.”

The revenue raised from the parking charges would be used to fund transport across the county, it was claimed.

Mr Hughes, the cabinet member for highways and transport at County Hall, said: “I am very happy to meet with the town council and chamber of commerce.”

He has extended consultations on the proposals until Christmas Eve to ensure that residents, businesses and town councils have additional time to consider the proposals.

More than 1,000 people have signed the petition. More opposition is expected.