Our once-thriving area is becoming a ghost town – strict parking rules are going to drive even more people away | The Sun

RESIDENTS of a once-thriving area say it has become a ghost town – and strict parking rules will drive even more people away.

Plans to scrap free parking after 6pm across Faversham, Kent will damage an already dying economy, locals fear.

Worried traders in Faversham, Sheppey and Sittingbourne claim pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas will be among those worst hit when new fees are introduced across town-centre car parks next week.

Swale Borough Council has agreed to increase ticket prices by eight per cent to £1.30 an hour – and extend the end of the payment period from 6pm to midnight.

Shoppers and business owners alike in the pretty market town of Faversham were unanimous that the move was a mistake.

The historic town is home to the UK’s oldest independent brewery, Shepherd Neame – which dates back to 1698.

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Freddy Chapel, 76, a retired tradesman said: "I think it's a disgrace. It's already bad as it is with the parking and this is just going to make it worse.

"It's got harder and harder to park here. It's always a job to get a spot and it's got more expensive.

"It's going to have a terrible affect on restaurants in the evenings. To be fair we don't come here too much then but this certainly won't encourage us back."

He added the town feels quiet all the time nowadays.

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Ann Harris, 85, has lived in Faversham her whole life – and believes the new restrictions will negatively impact the town.

The grandmother of 16 said: "I think it's all wrong. People take their children to go swimming in the evening and now they won't.

"All the things that are to do in the town in the evening will soon be gone because nobody's going to pay to come."

The businesses are going to suffer. Everybody's paying a lot for things as it is. Food and electricity is expensive and this is just another thing to worry about.

She went on to reveal people in Faversham are struggling with the cost of living as it is, so the new rules will make things much worse.

Another resident, Donald Mackenzie, 72, has lived in the town for seven years.

The retired demolitions worker said: "It should be free for everyone all the time, let alone in the evening.

"The town's not big enough. There's only one car park so it just makes people fight over it."

Leslie McManus, 69, slammed the council as "greedy" and believes the move will lead to local businesses losing money.

Leslie, a retired NHS worker said: "The council is so greedy. It's disgusting. They charge us to empty our garden waste each year.

"Faversham's really expensive. They think we're all rich because we were born and bred here. But it's not true.

"All the buildings are empty as it is. There's nothing in the high street. On what planet is this sort of thing going to help in any way?"

It's just another reason for people to avoid coming into town and the council should be looking to make changes that encourage people rather than put them off.

They're not the only ones to complain about the changes to the town.

Carl Worgan lives in nearby Canterbury but has travelled into the town every day for the past year to run his butcher’s shop.

The 43-year-old, originally from Wigan, said: "It's almost as if they are deliberately trying to divert traffic away from the town. It makes you wonder if they want small businesses to fail so they can replace empty premises with flats.

"Whenever one of these new rash ideas is suggested by a local council it always seems to be initiated by someone who's not been in the job for very long.

He added: "They're not bothered. They know that people are pretty much unanimously against it but they won't listen."

Paul Janes, who runs a go-kart team in nearby Buckmore Park, also thought the idea would result in less money coming into the town.

The 36-year-old said: "I don't think it's a good idea at all. It will just push people away from coming into the town to spend money.

"The town has had trouble with the cost of living crisis as it is and surely you'd think they would want to encourage people to come?"

Similarly, Delilah Smith works as for a florist in the town.

The 28-year-old was yet another resident who was against the plans.

She said: "It's already a nightmare round here and this is just another to thing to add to the list."

Marie Ripley has run the D&G Florist in the town for the last 17 months.

The 61-year-old, originally from south London, voiced her frustration with the council for yet another move that she thinks will harm the local economy.

Scrapping the free parking is just another thing. It's diabolical. Pubs, restaurants and even festivals in the town rely on that.

She said: "Running a local business is difficult at the best of times and stuff like this just makes it harder.

"Owners don't even get permits here, we have to pay here like everyone else. We don't get any help or support."

Marie went on to say if people have to pay for their parking they're not going to come – so the whole town will lose out.

She believes the council should do what other towns have done in Kent and introduce free parking on a Saturday to encourage shoppers.

A Swale Borough Council spokesman said: “Councillors agreed the changes as part of the budget for the next financial year, and we carried out a consultation on all the proposals which included the fees and charges.

"There are still costs associated with operating car parks in the evening – such as lighting – and our costs on all services have increased significantly in the last year, and these changes will help us meet these.

“Other parts of Kent charge into the night, and trials in other parts of the borough showed it did not deter use in the evenings.”

It comes after residents of a once-thriving street say it is now a ghost town – and it's led to fears more businesses will be forced to close.

Walsall Road, a street in Perry Barr, Birmingham, has been plagued with roadworks and confusing parking rules.

Meanwhile, residents of an idyllic seaside resort were devastated after it became a "ghost town" with empty bars and derelict shops.

Brean in Somerset is dominated by the giant Pontins Holiday Park, but this year thousands of holidaymakers will be missing.

For the next three years, the camp will be taken over by construction workers at the nearby Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

Locals in Nottinghamshire are also fuming after their "amazing" town centre became a wasteland strewn with litter, pigeon waste and cracked paving.

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Two villages have also been ghost towns for decades after locals were forced to flee 80 years ago.

Residents of Imber and Tyneham were ordered to evacuate in 1943 as Salisbury Plain was taken over by troops preparing for D-Day.

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