CONTROVERSIAL parking charges could be disastrous for Kirkintilloch town centre, business leaders have warned.
Last week the Herald reported that East Dunbartonshire councillors had agreed, in principle, to introduce charges in council-owned carparks.
But Business for Kirkintilloch chair Lex Gaston thinks that it could have a huge impact on footfall in the area.
He said: “I think it is madness. In terms of the lack of empty units we must have one of the best town centres in Scotland and one of the reasons for this is that people can come to Kirkintilloch and park for free.
“For every £1 the council make from this, businesses will lose £3. I would ask the council to think again on this because it will have a real detrimental effect of the town centre.
“Now we have the new link road it is easier to get into Kirkintilloch but it is also easier to get out. You can drive to the Fort Shopping Centre in just 15 minutes and I’m worried that is what shoppers will do.”
Many town centre retailers also warned the council that they would vigorously oppose any moves to introduce charged.
Jacqui Fairbairn, owner of Gemini Cards and Gifts on Kirkintilloch’s Cowgate, said: “If they bring in parking charges it will finish the town off.
“If you think of a lady spending two hours having her hair cut. At the moment she might go for a wee wander afterwards for a shop - if you introduce charges you can say goodbye to that.
“I’m the first to moan that there’s a problem with shop staff parking all day in council car parks Monday to Friday, but this idea would be a disaster for us.”
George Crawford, owner of Dance Apparel in the Kirkie Arcade, added: “There are other solutions. In Ayr they have free scratchcards you can get from shops which give you so much free on-street parking. If you stay any longer you get a ticket.
“It’s time for something to be done but charging isn’t the answer.”
But Derek Cunningham, the council’s director of environment, said there would be extensive consultation before a final decision was made.
He said: “There are many varied views on whether charging for parking is beneficial for town centres and the future work will look at this in greater detail.
“At an appropriate point during the next year, the views of all stakeholders will be sought as part of a detailed options appraisal. The work going forward will consider all of these aspects and will be reported back to Council for any decision on the detailed outcomes.”
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