TRADERS have raised fears over controversial proposals to cut the number of parking spaces and raise fees.

Businesses say the changes in Wantage could hinder their recovery from the coronavirus lockdown.

As more streets in Wantage are becoming pedestrianised, in what could become a permanent measure to attract back business, shops in the town centre warned that a lack of parking was already a ‘major concern’.

The Wantage Chamber of Commerce pointed out that removing popular free two-hour parking slots could be ‘detrimental’ to trade.

Wantage town council closed the west end of the Market Place to vehicles in July using temporary road barriers and road signs.

The measures mean that people can now sit out at tables and chairs in front of the Marmalade cafe, 30 Something wine bar and The King Alfred’s Head pub, and it is set to last up to 18 months.

Chairman of the Wantage Chamber of Commerce James Gordon pointed out that towns including Faringdon, Didcot and Newbury are all less than 20 minutes’ drive away and all offer ‘plenty of cheap subsidised parking’ and a ‘wide range of retail opportunities’.

He added: “We appreciate that the town centre needs to modernise, but this cannot be to the detriment of the local businesses. The lack of parking in Wantage has been a major concern for several years and is already a significant problem.

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“This will be compounded by the huge increase in the local population living on the outskirts of the town due to continued increased housing developments and who will need to drive to do their shopping.”

Mr Gordon commented that any rise in parking charges would result in a ‘small, though insignificant’, increase in revenue to the district council to spend elsewhere, but would be a ‘potential disaster’ to Wantage shops.

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The Chamber of Commerce committee said it was looking to meet with representatives of the town and district councils to explore ways to protect Wantage and prevent residents from changing their shopping habits.

The group’s vice chairman, Richard Shepherd, said he was discussing the problem of illegal parking with Thames Valley Police.