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Frome Chamber has sent the below letter to the Economic Development lead at Mendip District Council to ask for the free parking currently being enjoyed in the town centre to continue for the time being. We think that would show equal support to the shops that plan to reopen from 15 June.

Dear Councillor Goater

I understand that Mendip District Council is considering reinstating car parking charges from 15 June. Frome Chamber of Commerce certainly welcomed the suspension of parking charges during lockdown. It has certainly been seen as a supportive gesture to those essential retailers who remained open for the community during probably the most challenging time of their business life.

While I understand the car parks do generate income for the district council Frome Chamber is asking you to hold off from reinstating the charges to show the same support to those Frome town centre businesses which will also now be reopening.

Our town centres really are the heart of our communities, including the villages and rural communities that market towns serve. It seems likely that those people may now prefer to come by car even if they have a bus service.

Town centres have undoubtedly been one of the hardest hit sectors during this lockdown, especially the hospitality elements which are still operating at minimal levels if at all. They also face the ending of the central government support – and the Chamber thanks Mendip District Council for your hard work administering the support packages so quickly.

People’s habits will have changed over the lockdown period – they have been forced to go online or to supermarkets so they need as much encouragement as we can muster to get them to physically return to town centres and the shops and free parking would certainly be an attractive element of that.

Can I suggest that you offer a short term measure – for example one or two further months of continuing free parking? This can then be monitored to see whether you do lose much money. The Chamber feels it will take much longer than a couple of months to really attract large numbers of people to come back to the shops so I do not feel you will be losing substantial amounts of income but the boost to the town centre businesses will be much more valuable.

And of course free parking will also support the town open air markets which I think will also prove very attractive to shoppers, given the government advice on being outside.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my suggestion.

Yours sincerely

Pauline Davey

President, Frome Chamber