BUSINESS owners say car parking charges in Castle Point are harming their trade.

Independent pet shop Discount Pet Superstore, in Oak Road, Canvey, has been running for five years, but is now struggling after a decline in trade.

Castle Point Council brought in charges on February 1 at a number of car parks, including Oak Road, Richmond Hall, Benfleet, and Lubbins car park, on Canvey seafront.

Co-owner Ben Brown, 21, says the introduction of charges, coupled with flooding in the car park, has seen business suffer.

He said: “It has been a pretty long month and what is most frustrating is that the council is making so little money out of it, yet we are being seriously affected.

“Independent stores need all the support they can get at difficult times and when the council seems insistent it will not be helping you, it is a big blow. With rates and rent so high, we need to make sure we are getting regular footfall and we are simply not anymore.

“Things need to change and they need to change quickly.”

Sandra White, who has run Happy Days, in Furtherwick Road, for 12 years, said she was also affected by the introduction of parking charges.

She said: “We have noticed a fall in passing trade as people can now park at Sainsbury’s and rarely come all the way to the end of Furtherwick Road to see us. We are in a difficult position as we have to lug some pretty heavy items to the shop, as we are unable to stay in Oak Road all day.

“We have heavy helium gas tanks that we use to pump up balloons and it is not something that is easily movable. We strongly hope the council reverses the charges.”

Castle Point Council bosses confirmed repairs to Oak Road car park will be carried out in the next six weeks.

A Castle Point Council spokesperson said: “Free parking is available at the Paddocks, as an alternative to the Oak Road car park. The maximum three-hour stay at the Oak Road car park ensures it is used by shoppers rather than shop workers who were previously parking there all day, so this should be advantageous to local businesses.”