Campaigners have reacted furiously after being told by councillors they should prove the introduction of Sunday parking charges will damage the town centre’s businesses.
Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, suggested businesses compare their Saturday takings per hour to a Sunday when there are currently no charges.
Town centre businesses have raised their concerns with the plan by adding their signatures, along with more than 1,000 others, to a petition against the charges.
However, councillors have already poured cold water on any petition’s impact during a County Area Committee meeting for the Harrogate District on Thursday, May 26.
Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for Highways, warned councillors that petitions tended to attract a huge number of signatories who have “not thought about the subject”.
His concerns were echoed by Coun Cooper who concluded that it would be more beneficial for councillors to see objections based on evidence, rather than sheer weight of numbers.
He said: “I have seen a petition where 700 people wanted to keep a local pub open that closed because nobody went to it. Good reasons are better than numbers.
“But, if businesses are saying to us that parking charges deter people and do not encourage turnover of spaces, then we need proof of that.
“Traders say they don’t want them but if the charges do encourage this turnover then they would want them. I’m saying prove your case because I don’t know which is right or wrong.
“I have not seen that evidence the county council has collected. I have also not seen the evidence of businesses’ trade per hour. I need to see this evidence before reaching a decision.”
However, Mike Pywell who launched the petition against parking charges, said it was “ludicrous” for Coun Cooper to shift responsibility of proof to businesses.
Mr Pywell, whose original parking charges petition gathered almost 2,500 signatures, said the councillors’ had an ‘arrogant’ attitude to the petition.
He said: “This isn’t about lost trade, we should look for ways to increase trade - parking charges will not help business.
“And by suggesting that parking charges don’t have any effect, as shops take more per hour on Saturday than they do on Sunday, only highlights the fact that they don’t speak to business owners.
“Saturday will always be the busiest day of the week bar none. The statement itself proves that this hasn’t been thought through.”
During the meeting, Coun David Simister questioned why the county council were going against the “collective view” of residents and businesses.
He said: “It’s up to the council to prove they’re right, not for the businesses to prove we don’t need them.There are a lot of people who went out there way to sign the petition and they are just ignored.
“This is mirrored with the fracking decision. Our authority is riding roughshod over local opinion”
Visit www.hgsaysyes.com to sign the petition.