NEW car parking charges on Canvey are putting companies at risk of going out of business, say traders.
Fees were introduced at Oak Road car park, near the Furtherwick Road shopping centre, in February.
But traders say takings are falling and they have noticed a “significant” drop in the number of customers coming to Furtherwick Road since the charges were brought in.
Card shop Happy Days has traded in Furtherwick Road for 20 years. Owners say takings have fallen by 30 per cent since the charges were introduced.
Sandra White, partner of Happy Days, said: “People are not coming down to our end of the town because they don’t want to pay for the parking.
“We’ve noticed a significant drop in customer numbers and takings have gone down as well.
“It is a ghost car park. Before, it was packed – not so packed that you couldn’t park, but there were always cars in it and you could always get a space.
“If I was to close, the council is going to lose more money by not getting my business rates than it is from the money it’s making from the car park.”
Jeannette Harding, owner of Marks Carpet Shop, said: “Business has slowed down. 40p is too much to ask people to pay when they’ve had it free all this time.
“The council could do more to support local businesses. People don’t like walking nowadays and they don’t like paying for parking either.”
Discount Pet Superstore, in Oak Road, has been in business for ten years.
Owner Darren Brown added: “There used to be 50 to 100 cars in the mornings and people would park and pop into the shop, but we don’t get that any more.
“It’s like a ghost town and we’re losing about 25 per cent of our footflow from that car park a week now.”
CHARGES were introduced on February 1 at Oak Road, Canvey, Richmond Hall in Benfleet and Lubbins car park on Canvey seafront.
The car park at Oak Road makes around £300 a week with motorists charged 40p for one hour, 80p for two and £1.50 for up to three hours during the week.
COUNCILLORS will discuss the car parking charges at a meeting on Wednesday.
Canvey Island Independent councillors are calling for the fees to be scrapped.
Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent Party, said: “I’ve had long conversations with traders telling me turnover is down and people are not walking past.
“They are all struggling. It’s sad. The council needs to realise what it has done to these businesses.”
Staff now park at the Paddocks car park to avoid charges in the short-stay car park. A report to the council’s cabinet says if charges were scrapped at Oak Road, they would also need to be suspended in Rectory Road and Richmond Hall car parks.
Abolishing the charges could result in the council losing £100,000 a year.
Mr Blackwell added: “Here we are, meant to be trying to help small businesses, but what the council hasn’t looked at is the effect of these charges.
“Businesses are struggling to keep roofs over their heads.”
TOM Skipp, the councillor responsible for environment and street scene, defended the charges.
He said: “One of the reasons we brought the charges in was the car park was full every day. But it was people who worked there, leaving no spaces for shoppers.
“The car park at Knightswick is privately owned and charges, and it’s always full.
“The complaint before was the shoppers could not park at Oak Road.
“Now they can park there any time of the day, because the people who were using it and worked at the shops are no longer parking there.
“The income from this and all the car parks throughout the borough are funding this council’s car park improvement programme and if charges were removed from this and the other similar car parks, the funding would be at risk.
“Complaints were constantly received from members of the public and local councillors on Canvey about the lack of parking spaces available throughout the day and the continuous flooding experienced at this car park.
“The improvements carried out and funded by car parking charges have solved both of these problems.”