One HAS only to walk along High Street and the precinct in Abingdon to be fully aware of the downturn in shopping now on offer, with the threat of even more closures in the forthcoming months.

Many people will attribute this to the new town centre road system.

This is certainly a contributing factor, but not the sole villain of the cause of this major reduction in shoppers. We are told it will settle down and will work in the end, a view neither I nor most residents share.

Visitors have already expressed their views - they don't come.

There is another contributing factor causing the lack of shoppers - the Vale of White Horse District Council taking over the first four levels of the multi-storey car park for its own staff. Why?

This tactic was adopted while it sought permission for housing on the site of its old parking space, next to its new expensive building.

Fortunately, Abingdon Town Council vigorously opposed the planning application.

It is against the Approved Local Plan (it is designated as a public car park), stressing that the town requires all the parking spaces it has at the moment if it is to thrive, like Didcot or Witney.

Now that the Vale council has woken up to this elementary, logical conclusion, I suggest that it vacates the shoppers' multi-storey car park and returns it to shoppers, which was the original intention of the planning consent many years ago.

Let us put an end to mothers with pushchairs and young children struggling up and down the stairs to level 4, while the young fit members of the Vale staff park their cars, then just stroll up or down the convenient ramp and off to work.

Obviously, the council couldn't have obtained planning consent for its own car park next to its offices, then seized a third of the multi-storey for its staff.

That would have led to a huge public outcry. No, it moved in first, almost by stealth, but it has backfired.

The lame excuse I was given by a councillor was the fact that the public wanted the council car park as a public car park, as it was closer to the town centre. What poppycock!

When the Monday Market moved there temporarily, the traders said that business was terrible, with total lack of customers. I suggest that the council goes back to how things were as quickly as possible. The shopkeepers and shoppers want it.

If the council does not, I will remind the voters in the New Year just who voted for this blatant takeover of our public shoppers' car park.

The majority of council staff want to move back - or doesn't the council talk to them?

BRIAN EASTOE Sutton Wick Lane Drayton