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Cautious welcome for concessions on new Swanley parking charges
SWANLEY residents, shop workers and councillors have broadly welcomed new concessions on parking charges in the town centre.
But there is still frustration shopping centre and Nightingale Way car park owners Development Securities decided to introduce the charges in the first place.
The car park was free until signs and parking meters suddenly appeared on November 5 with drivers having to pay the new charges from the day after.
It still costs 50p for an hour, £2 for three hours and £3 to park all day at the site which serves the shopping centre as well as the Cedars and Oaks doctors’ surgeries.
But from January the hourly rate will halve to 25p, shopping centre employees will be allowed to park all day for £2 and Blue Badge holders will get the three hours free parking they were previously denied.
The regular all day rate will go up to £3.50 while the £100 fine for not paying - reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days - remains.
A petition against the charges at Wilkinson has been signed by more than 400 people.
Cashier Jo Hare, 44, drives in from Crockenhill five times a week to do 12 to 15 hours work.
The Nightingale Way car park serves the shopping centre.
She told News Shopper: “What we really wanted was a discount for people who have to work here so we’ve got that.
“But when you get £74 a week and you have to pay £10 for a week’s car parking it’s crazy.
“They have found a way to cover themselves and we end up paying.”
Labour group leader on Swanley Town Council Mark Fittock said the concessions were a “significant move in the right direction” but branded Development Securities’ reason for bringing the charges in “off the wall”.
The company claims the cost of monitoring anti-social behaviour at the centre meant they had to bring in charges at a car park which had long been free.
The revenue is to help pay for newly installed CCTV and other measures, including security guards, aimed at dealing with groups of youths said to congregate in the area.
Wilkinson cashier Jo Hare.
Conservative member for Christchurch ward Victor Southern defended the company.
He said: “The deal we have is 95 per cent better than what we were suddenly presented with.
“It’s regrettable but I think in the end we came out of it a lot better than expected.”
Development Securities spokesman Matt Potter said: “We are confident this new schedule of charges is a fair compromise between ourselves, the residents of Swanley and most importantly, the tenants at our shopping centre.
“Our priority remains to ensure the future success of Swanley shopping centre for its tenants and shoppers.”
Kate Steer, 31, of Church Road, Bexleyheath, works in business support based at United House in Goldsel Road, Swanley.
“They should just get rid of the charges altogether as it has been free for so long.
“I don’t think it’s going to work. You can park at Aldi but by the time you have found a space, parked up and walked into town your lunch break is gone.”
Brian Booker, 77, is a retired taxi driver living in Multain Hill, Swanley, who uses the car park six times a week.
“I am pleased they will respect Blue Badge holders but the charges are affecting the town centre because normally the car park would be full up but now it’s not.”
Brian Dethidge, 80, is a retired postman who lives in Penshurst Close, West Kingsdown, and has a Blue Badge as his wife Marion, 73, is in a wheelchair.
“It’s disgusting you can’t use a Blue Badge but I’ll be very happy when they change it.
“They need to because there are a hell-of-a lot of people moaning about it. “You have got to think of the people who shop here.”
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