Councillor Michael Auton met with Cllr Rigby, B&NES Cabinet Member for Highways, to follow up his proposal printed in The Journal’s article last week (issue 2216) regarding the implementation of parking charges in Midsomer Norton.

Reporting back on his meeting with the B&NES Cabinet member for Highways this week, Councillor Michael Auton said: “I’m pleased to report that I had a constructive meeting with Cllr Rigby, and she was very open to hearing residents’ concerns about the impact of parking charges on Midsomer Norton shoppers and local businesses.

“Over 140 people have responded to my South Road car park survey, and I was able to share that data with Cllr Rigby. The results show that approximately 85% of people usually park for up to two hours.

“With this in mind, I once again pushed my proposal to keep parking free for the first two hours of any visit. Cllr Rigby said that this was a ‘really sensible’ suggestion, which will be considered.

“I am also pressing the Council to consider a permit scheme for local businesses, to help protect the High Street. This is something local business owners tell me would really help them retain staff and keep afloat. The parking service is cautious about this idea, but it is something I will continue to raise.

“Although the car parking proposal will be included in the Council’s draft budget, which must be decided in February, this is not the end of the road. Before any charges can be implemented, there will be a public consultation on the ‘Traffic Regulation Order’ process, so all residents will have a formal opportunity to have their say.

“Budget setting is always a very difficult time for local government, but this year is apparently the worst it has ever been, due to government cuts and sky-rocketing inflation. B&NES Council is being forced to look at new income options to fund essential services, such as social care, that many people rely on.

“Midsomer Norton may be facing an unwelcome new parking charge, but I will work hard to get the best deal for the town should the Cabinet support this.

“ I am determined to be a strong voice for Midsomer Norton at the Guildhall, to ensure that our community is not neglected and that we get our fair share of funding.

“In the coming weeks, I will continue to engage with residents, businesses and the Council, to ensure everyone has the latest information about the forthcoming consultation.”