The increase in council parking restrictions is forcing retailers to take action to deter people from abusing their free spaces.

Cambridgeshire retailer Jonathan James said he had been hit by the local council’s decision to restrict free town centre parking time from two hours to 30 minutes. “At our Soham store 15-20 people now use our parking spaces without shopping with us. This has risen from about two or three before the restrictions.”

Jonathan is looking to sign a contract with private parking enforcer MET Parking. A driver will be fined £80 for parking longer than two hours in one of his spaces. “It sends out a negative message, but it also sends out a negative message to customers if they can’t park at my store,” he said. “It costs me nothing as they make their money from fines.”

In nearby Ely, where Jonathan has a forecourt, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition against the introduction of parking charges in the town centre. Furthermore, a new Sainsbury’s supermarket will open next year on the edge of town, equipped with an underground car park. “It would be a double whammy for town centre trade,” he said.

Vince Maloney, who co-owns three Budgens stores, employed a private parking enforcer at his Ascot store after the council restricted town centre parking. “On one day 110 cars were parked in our 88 spaces, and only 20 people were in our shop,” he said. “After the council introduced the town centre restrictions, it put our business rates up by 17.5% because we have this car park.”

Nisa retailer Kishor Patel said a Morrisons had just opened in his area, Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. “It has no parking so people use spaces on the high street without using local shops.”

He said he would be making a presentation to the council, urging them to consider how parking issues affect small shops.

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