Victory for Bath’s Independent Shops

With over 1,400 local business people and residents signing a petition calling on Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council to cut parking charges, the lead petitioners finally got their time before a full council meeting in Bath’s Guildhall — and the result they wanted.

As co-lead petitioner, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance grassroots co-ordinator Tim Newark presented the Independent Shops of Bath petition against the recent rise in parking fees in central Bath.

A full council debate was triggered by the petition and a motion was passed by a clear majority calling on B&NES Cabinet to ‘take into serious consideration the proposals of the petitioners, and in particular seek to reduce or remove the new “ultra-premium” on-street parking zone rates.’ In addition to this the Council is asked to ‘either reinstate a reduced evening parking charge from 6pm to 8pm, or alternatively amend the start time of free parking to 7pm rather than the current 8pm.’

The motion in support of the Independent Shops of Bath petition recognised that ‘recent significant increases in on-street parking charges in Bath could have a detrimental impact on economic activity in the city, and believes that the new “Ultra-Premium Zone” is particularly unfair and punitive.’

‘I’m delighted with the clear support of the council for our petition,’ says Tim Newark. ‘It is a victory for common sense and independent shops and restaurants in Bath. Obviously, these changes will not happen overnight and the cabinet has to approve them, but it is a big step in the right direction to make Bath attractive to shoppers who prefer to drive into the city—not everyone wants to use a bus or bicycle—it is not always practical.’

‘The curtailing of parking charges after 6pm will make a big difference to the evening economy, helping independent restaurants in particular, as well as enabling people to enjoy our city.’

‘Sadly, the motion did not embrace our boldest suggestion—a free first half hour of parking in the city centre. This would encourage customers to pop in and browse. It’s the idea of Brandon Lewis MP, Minister for High Streets, so I can’t see why B&NES can’t adopt it here.’

Many of the supporters of the petition are independent shopkeepers from some of Bath’s most attractive city centre locations, including Walcot Street, Broad Street, Milsom Place, Upper Borough Walls and Bartlett Street.

‘Since opening my contemporary art gallery a year ago,’ says Jenny Pollitt of Lane House Arts, ‘I have witnessed a downturn in trade leading to the closure of many local independent businesses in the Walcot Street/London Road area. The downturn started when parking charges were increased. This together with a lack of business parking and permits, and unhelpful traffic wardens are leading people to go elsewhere in the city to park and shop. Why would you park here for two hours when you can park elsewhere for four for the same amount?’

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