RETAILERS across Waverley are threatening to boycott the borough council in protest at car park ticket price hikes imposed without public consultation this month.
Many businesses have reported a drop in footfall since the price hikes came into force on November 1. And retailers, and their staff, are directly affected too - with many forced to park all day in the car parks while they are at work.
Charity shops, including Oxfam Books in Farnham, have also expressed concern that the price rises could make it harder to recruit volunteers (see letters, Page 23).
Councillors backed the new parking schedule at a meeting of Waverley’s full council on September 22 - but there was no consultation with the public or businesses prior to them coming into effect.
The price hikes range hugely, with modest 10p-per-hour increases at car parks such as Central in Farnham, and even reduced fees for short stops at others, such as Tanner’s Lane in Haslemere.
However, the cost of long-term parking at Tanner’s Lane has increased, hitting retailers who park there daily, and in some car parks the prices have sky-rocketed, such as at Farnham Leisure Centre, where two hours’ parking now costs £2.20, up from 70p.
But while businesses sympathise with the council’s need to increase revenue after last year’s lockdowns, it is the lack of consultation that has caused most upset.
Craig McGowan, president of Haslemere Chamber of Commerce, said: "Everyone accepts Waverley Borough Council has to raise income to cover the cost of the services it provides, but the problem is the way they’ve gone about it.
"It’s like we’ve gone back to the bad old days - they’ve tried to quietly slip this under the radar without bothering to tell the business community.
"Waverley’s business development team have been great over the past few years, but they’ve been stitched up by the council officers and councillors on this, and all the trust they’ve built up with businesses and the chambers has gone out the window."
A Waverley spokesman dodged the Herald’s queries about a lack of consultation, but stated the council was having to make "difficult decisions" because of reductions in its central government funding.
"We regret that there have been increases to charges but these have been necessary," the spokesman said, adding it was the council’s strategy to "discourage long stay parking in the more central car parks and make parking in the outlying car parks relatively cheaper for long stay parking".