Council accused of bowing to big business as Co-op forces climb down over parking charges at Louth store

Shoppers at the Co-operative store in Northgate will pay lower prices and enjoy free Sunday parking.
Shoppers at the Co-operative store in Northgate will pay lower prices and enjoy free Sunday parking.
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East Lindsey District Council has been forced into a climb down over planned changes to car parking at the Co-operative supermarket in Louth.

A successful appeal from the Co-op means the authority will be unable to increase the prices at the Northgate store in line with the hike across the board which was implemented from April 1.

The council is therefore also unable to enforce Sunday parking charges on the store car park which they lease from the Co-operative.

But the latest twist has led to accusations that the council have swept aside the needs of independent local businesses, whilst bowing to the power of the bigger firms.

Louth resident Patrick Neville said: “It does suggest that while the voice of Louth residents, visitors and small businesses is totally ignored, bigger corporate entities can get concessions if they shout loud enough.

“But this is not in any way a criticism of the Co-op – it has acted to protect its business interests, bearing in mind Morrison’s has free parking.”

The changes to parking which included price increases, the scrapping of free Sunday parking and the introduction of charges on the previously free Cattle Market led to uproar in Louth, with over 2,600 people signing a petition against them.

Helen Seed, spokesperson for The Co-operative, said the firm had lodged the objection immediately when the pricing changes were proposed.

“We are pleased to confirm that, following discussions with East Lindsey Council, the cost of parking at our Northgate Co-operative Food store will remain the same,” she told the Leader.

“Customers will also be able to enjoy free parking all day on Sundays.”

Mr Neville, a former chairman of Louth Town Partnership, said he believed the council needed to do more to support local firms.

He said the council had turned ‘deaf ear’ to the people who had signed the petition launched in January by Louth businessman Gary Denniss.

Last week a survey by the Centre for Retail Research warned that one in five high street shops will close over the next five years.

“There are so many major issues that could change the feel of Louth in the next year or two, the parking charges seem to fly in the face of the Mary Portas recommendations,” Mr Neville continued.

“The council should be doing all they can to bring footfall into Louth and keep the high street alive.”

Marie Williamson, the district council’s communications officer, said in a statement: “The Co-op car park in Louth is owned by the Co-op, but East Lindsey District Council are the tenants.

“We operate the car park under a lease agreement with the store.

“The Co-op, as our landlords at the site, did not agree with the proposed changes to parking charges and as such no change was made to the parking arrangements at this location, other than the requirement for Blue Badge Holders to pay for parking.”

What do you make of this latest twist? What would you like to see happen?

Email your views to sam.kinnaird@jpress.co.uk.