A car parking survey in Devizes shows that most people want the free hour in the Market Place restored.
Wiltshire Council controversially reduced the free one hour parking to 30 minutes in the Market Place in 2011 despite a petition against it signed by 4,657 people. The council said it was changed to bring it in line with Marlborough High Street.
The Trust for Devizes organised the survey and a public meeting to coincide with the start of a council review of parking throughout the county.
The survey was completed by more than 200 people and showed 70 per cent wanted one hour free in the Market Place. Only six per cent wanted it to remain at 30 minutes, while eight per cent thought it should be 45 minutes.
Town centre traders agreed the time limit should revert back to one hour.
Helen Morse, owner of Italian boutique Cielo Blu in the Market Place, said: “Thirty minutes free has certainly had an effect on trade because ladies will be in my shop looking at the clock and having to go. I get probably four to five people on average a week who leave in haste to go back to their vehicles.
“I don’t see the objective of why the council changed it to 30 minutes. We have seen no change in business rates since they changed it.”
Sarah Clarke, owner of Upper Cut Clothing in The Ginnel, said: “Since it went to 30 minutes we get people in the shop saying it is not long enough and have to go back to their car.
“They can only do one job in 30 minutes, there’s no time to browse. If it goes back to one hour the council will have done something right.”
A public meeting at Devizes town hall last Friday night attracted 76 people. As well as one hour free in the Market Place the other main issues that people called for were enabling people using the car parks in the town to pay on exit and for residents’ parking schemes to deter commuter parking in streets including Victoria Road.
David Dawson, director of Wiltshire Museum and a trustee of The Trust for Devizes, said: “We are very interested to see so many people wanted to see parking back to an hour free in the Market Place.
“It’s important there is the ability to find a space for people with mobility problems balanced with the time for people to get their shopping done. Pay on exit at the car parks would help as visitors to the museum tell us they have to rush back to their car because their time is up.”
The Trust has written to Wiltshire Council with the findings.
Wiltshire Council portfolio holder for highways, Councillor Philip Whitehead, told the public meeting the review would concentrate on charges, off street and on street parking and visitor attraction parking.