Parking charge campaigners have welcomed a strongly-worded intervention by an Angus MSP who has described the situation as “outrageous”.
Hitting out at the introduction of charges in off-street car parks across the county, Angus North and Mearns SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon said: “It’s the time of year when we should be seeing our high streets awash with people and our shops busier than ever.
“Instead, the reintroduction of parking charges has seen the high streets of Angus deserted with car parks that were once full now hosting only a handful of cars and our businesses suffering as a result.
“When other local authorities have seen the introduction of free parking days or free parking ‘grace periods’ in the run up to Christmas to encourage shoppers in, Angus Council has done the opposite — imposing charges with electronic machines that many have struggled with.”
Ms Gougeon also urged Angus residents to do their bit to shop and eat locally and to “take the fight to Angus Council”.
Kirriemuir businessman Barrie Ewart who has been spearheading efforts to have the policy reversed, thanked Ms Gougeon for the support.
“This is a very welcome development in the campaign,” he said.
“The charges need to be stopped 100% – the bags need to go over the tops of these meters to help the retailers.
“If the situation does not improve, I know of three businesses in Kirriemuir alone that will close their doors in January.”
The charges have proved hugely contentious since they were introduced on November 1, leading to angry protests and even vandal attacks on four of the card-only machines.
There has been a marked fall in the number of people using council-run car parks and a survey of more than 50 businesses across the county by the Angus Business and Retailers Association (ABRA) revealed more than 80% have been hit by a downturn in trade.
An Angus Council spokesman said off-street parking had been free for 22 years but the county could no longer afford to continue that policy and maintain infrastructure and services.
“We knew that the introduction of parking charges would be controversial, unpopular even,” he said.
“But, the financial challenges faced by this council are extreme and unprecedented. Our options to achieve the required millions of pounds in savings are reducing year on year.”
The spokesman added that Angus drivers were still in a better position than others elsewhere.
“The fact remains that on-street parking provision has not changed.” he added.
“Where people could park previously for free, they can still park for free.
“An off-street parking charge of £1 per hour up to a maximum of £4 stands very favourable comparison again charges levied by other councils in Scotland – on and off street.”