A HOTEL owner fears that overnight guests will be driven away from Woodstock if parking charges and restrictions are introduced.

Staff at the Crown Inn say hotels without car parks will no longer be able to offer guests long-stay parking except in one small public car park under proposals from Oxfordshire County Council.

These include the introduction of pay and display bays with exemptions for permit holders, and new permit holder only parking areas in the town centre.

Owner Justine Rosser said: “The council are threatening to destroy small businesses in Woodstock by proposing new parking time restrictions and fees in Woodstock centre.

“This will impact most businesses negatively and cause chaos.

Oxford Mail:

"And as there will be one permit per business, our staff of around 15  will often be unable to park for work.

“We lasted the pandemic by adapting as a deli shop, then takeaway as well as launching as a successful wedding venue. Now the council are trying to ruin us by removing unrestricted parking.”

Assistant manager Will Ward added: "I have lots of staff members including kitchen staff, restaurant staff and cleaners, who would not be able to park.

"It's the inconvenience for guests. It makes them more likely to look at the Bear or the Travelodge in Witney, options that have their own parking.

"People who want this want Woodstock to be a nice quiet market town. But it isn't. We've got Blenheim Palace next door, we're right next to Oxford. It's a tourist town.

"People stay all day - they go to Blenheim in the morning, a pub for lunch, they look round the shops in the afternoon. They want to turn it into a place for a quick stop." 

An employee of The Feathers agreed: “It is a concern for us, as it should be the whole town, parking charges will steer people away from all our shops, restaurants, and hotels."

She said shoppers will go instead to Kidlington or Witney where all parking is free.

However, some see charges as a necessity.

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Dennis Allen, chair of Wake up to Woodstock, a non-profit association which aims to attract more visitors, said: “Our view was that something has to happen to create traffic turnover, or 'churn' as there is not enough parking for all the people that want to park. Our submission put forward modifications to the plan.

"In addition we suggested that before the new ideas were imposed that we had a trial period of enforcement. The lack of enforcement has helped to create the problem of people parking all day in the town, which does not help the businesses.

"The local car park is now limited to 12 hours' maximum so visitors staying for a weekend or few days seem to be caught in a need to keep moving cars while those who live in the centre will have have free parking in the centre."

An employee at the Back Lane Tavern in Park Lane agreed: "We don’t have any private parking but there’s lots behind The Bear Hotel. But every day it’s full of tradesmen's vans so it’s a real struggle.

"I can see the benefits but I think they also need to make more parking."

Woodstock town councillor Sharone Parnes said he was extremely worried that the proposed parking charges may be a "death knell" for local businesses that are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

A county council public consultation has received over 400 responses which are being reviewed.

Cllr Andy Graham, who represents Woodstock on Oxfordshire County Council: "Clearly there are concerns expressed by various groups and interested parties and that is what the function of a good consultation is - to tease our positive suggestions that could give rise to further work on the scheme.

Oxford Mail:

"There is no foregone conclusion, and I look forward to receiving the full report which goes to cabinet."

He also denied that introducing parking charges in Woodstock was a trial for the rest of the district.

In February, Conservative councillors led a petition to ‘save’ free parking in West Oxfordshire.

Mr Graham, who is leader-in-waiting of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The idea that parking charges would be introduced across West Oxfordshire was a rumour spread around by the Conservatives during the elections.

"It’s scurrilous that they should continue with this kind of propaganda. It spreads discontent when people don’t know what to believe.

“There is no truth in it. Woodstock is a very special town that has a very special problem.”

A report will be presented to the Cabinet Member for Highway Management Tim Bearder at a meeting scheduled for May 26 where the final decision will be made.