‘Patience is wearing thin’ - Louth butcher reports drop in footfall and blames controversial parking charges

A Louth butcher claims footfall at his shop is down 10 per cent since parking charges were ramped up in Louth and says patience is ‘wearing thin’.

Jim Sutcliffe, owner of Meridian Meats in Eastgate, said the increased charges at East Lindsey District Council’s car parks are affecting footfall for his business as well as fellow traders.

The council has confirmed it raised just £4,000 by charging for previously free car parks through May, but noted a £60,000 year-on-year rise for the increased fees on previously paid-for car parks in the town.

“Footfall is down ten per cent and that’s unusual, it’s not something that happens every May,” Jim told the Leader.

“People who previously came into town two or three times a week are now just coming once and visitors are not staying in the town as long.”

ELDC brought in the charges on May 1 despite opposition locally and a 2,600-name petition. The council said the changes would plug a £400,000 ‘black hole’ over the next four years and protect frontline services.

The council’s spokesman James Gilbert said the authority had predicted that previously free car parks will generate between £20,000 to £90,000 more per year.

“Those car parks in Louth that have always been charged saw a one per cent increase in usage in May 2013 compared to previous years, so the number of cars parking in them has increased,” he said.

Mr Sutcliffe said traders in Louth were agreed that a ‘supermarket style’ ticketing system, whereby motorists could claim back their parking fees if they spent money in the town centre shops, would work.

But he said he had little faith in the authority to make any changes when they review the decision next year.

“The council doesn’t seem to want to listen to anybody and it wears very thin on the entire electorate,” he said.

“They have a habit of just leaving things until people forget about them.

“Running a business I’m the worst paid member of staff and I work the longest hours, yet East Lindsey’s chief executive is sitting there on £105,000 a year.”

Once home to around 100 vehicles per day, the once-free Cattle Market in Louth is now reported to be verging on empty even at busy times.

The car parking changes have led to concerns that motorists are now clogging up the town’s side roads, scouring the town centre for free parking.

This has led to illegal parking in St Mary’s Lane and a renewed promise from Lincolnshire County Council to crack down on those flouting the roadside parking laws.

Is Louth as busy as ever? Or have the changes caused a ‘ghost town’ effect? Email your views to sam.kinnaird@jpress.co.uk.