LETTER: Horncastle still suffering from ELDC parking policy

Eighteen months ago I predicted that the new parking policy introduced by ELDC would damage the retail economy of Horncastle.

I have been proved correct as, without any doubt, Horncastle is suffering severe retail economic repercussions from the fact that the car parks in the town are now more often empty and never full.

Sunday parking charges were introduced and now there is rarely a single car in two of the main car parks in the town on a Sunday. What possible benefit can that be for ELDC and it certainly is not good for the town. The Wong car park, previously free, is now loss making for ELDC since charges and enforcement were introduced. How can ELDC justify this unacceptable situation?

The main reason that motorists no longer visit and park in Horncastle is over-zealous enforcement by East Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council. I have many examples to support the fact that enforcement officers from both council are persecuting and prosecuting the motorist at any and every opportunity.

I have a photograph of a car parked in St Lawrence Street car park with a penalty notice on the windscreen, despite having paid £3 for a parking ticket. I have no doubt the unfortunate motorist must have inadvertently contravened one of the many regulations, but my argument is if we are to encourage visitors and customers to our market town, £3 ought to buy them the freedom to leave their vehicle, without worry of prosecution in any car park in the town for as long as they like on any one day.

It might be argued that Horncastle no longer offers what visitors are looking for, but that would be wrong. Customers do want what retails outlets in Horncastle have to offer, it is the car parking policy that motorists do not want.

There are many retailers and dealers in shops and antique/collectable centres in Horncastle just as there are at Hemswell Antiques Centre. I asked the proprietor of one such busy centre at Hemswell what effect she thought it would have on her business if parking charges and enforcement were introduced at Hemswell.

Her reply was that people would stop coming with disastrous consequences. This is what has happened in Horncastle, people have stopped coming and those that do come do not stay. ELDC has killed the town economically and they have to accept this because it is fact.

This, in my opinion, leaves the council with two options, 1. restore some long term free car parking which would be free from the risk of prosecution, in an attempt to reverse the damage caused. 2. belligerently ignore the consequences of their actions and accept responsibility for the demise of a previously thriving market town that used to boast a vibrant retail economy.

There are, as you will know, over 10 coffee shops in Horncastle. The one that enjoys constant busy trade from visitors driving into the town is the one with its own private free parking where customers can relax, comfortable in the knowledge that the local council will not be adding a parking penalty charge to their bill.

There is nowhere else in Horncastle where visitors are able to obtain this freedom to park without fear of prosecution. Street parking, without restriction, is largely unavailable as local workers in the town already command these spaces because they feel there is no other suitable parking for their needs.

I hope you agree that all the evidence clearly shows the council was wrong to adopt the parking policy introduced in Horncastle last year and a strong representation has to be made to ELDC to correct this crippling situation where, neither, ELDC or Horncastle are winners and indeed both are losers.

Richard Ingram Hill