A parking charge of £31.50 for staying over three hours in Truro council owned car parks will " bankrupt” the city, shop owners say, writes Local Democracy Reporter Lee Trewhela.

Old Bridge Street car park, near Truro Cathedral, has always been short stay but there was previously no extra charge if you parked longer than three hours – though you could be stung by a £25 fine. The council changed the tariff on April 1 meaning that anyone parking in what is known locally as the “shoppers’ car park” will have to pay £31.50 if they stay longer than three hours between 9am and 6pm.

The council made the move to dissuade a “significant number” of motorists “clogging up” the car park. However, nearby traders and people who regularly use the car park hate the new policy.

Spencer Morris runs Gallery No 2 in St Mary’s Mews. He said: “It’s Cornwall Council at its best. They’ve done that for the sake of a few persistent parkers, and I admit I’m one of them. A few of us who have businesses near the car park have been asking the council for permits to park there for the last five years.

“We need to park, unload and deliver everything from paintings and tables to sideboards and chairs. It’s really difficult to do that here without using that car park, and yet they refused. They’d prefer us now parking in a private NCP car park instead of using a council one.”

He added: “I know it’s affecting trade there now – the car park’s almost empty at the moment. It never would have been like that before they changed the tariff. Customers have told us, they are looking at the price and deciding not to park there now. One lady was six minutes over the three hours and didn’t have the money to pay – she pressed the intercom and was told to phone a friend for the money.

Falmouth Packet: The new tariff at Old Bridge Street car park with the £31.50 charge if drivers stay for more than three hours during the day The new tariff at Old Bridge Street car park with the £31.50 charge if drivers stay for more than three hours during the day (Image: Lee Trewhela/LDR)

“It’s scaring people away – it feels like the council is trying to bankrupt this city. Soon Truro will just be hairdressers and coffee shops. All the independent businesses will fold. It used to be a destination city, but not anymore.”

Paul Gilbert who runs one of Truro’s coffee shops, Kaku Chi, which is also in the mews, said he was guilty of parking there all day too and was often happy to pay the £25 fine for going over the three-hour limit, simply because it made trade easier without the need for parking further away from the business.

Paul says the future of his business is on a knife edge following a poor winter. He is dependent on a busy summer and feels the situation with the car park – and the increased cost to park in other council car parks across the city – “goes against helping local businesses”.

Falmouth Packet: The new tariff at Old Bridge Street car park with the £31.50 charge if drivers stay for more than three hours during the dayThe new tariff at Old Bridge Street car park with the £31.50 charge if drivers stay for more than three hours during the day (Image: Lee Trewhela/LDR)

“It’s obviously putting people off parking there now as there are more than 20 empty car parking spaces at the moment. There would be a fight to get in this time last year.”

Also based in the mews is Brocante Revival, run by Margaret Georgiou. She doesn’t pull any punches when she says: “It’s appalling. The council doesn’t care about Truro – they don’t give a s***.” She had also asked for a parking permit. “There are three or four of us who were quite willing to pay, but they wouldn’t allow it. If the council needs the money, let us pay for permits.

“It’s cheaper to park in car parks at Portobello Road and Spitalfields in London than it is here. A lady parked for a charity event in the cathedral and went over the three hours without realising. She went completely ballistic.”

The woman who went “ballistic” contacted us after writing to the council to complain about the £31.50 charge. Wanting to remain anonymous, she told us: “I supported five businesses and a local charity, only to be met with this ridiculous charge. Daylight robbery – I’m furious. It’s obviously a money making ploy by the council.

“Can you tell me what the council is doing to encourage the Cornish to come into town and spend money at local businesses? Because I’m seeing lots of empty store fronts in the county.”

Alun Jones, manager of the Truro BID retail organisation, said he was aware of concerns from some local businesses. “We fully understand any concerns that may potentially deter our customers from using the car park,” he said, adding that the council’s concern was workers in the town using the Old Bridge Street site all day and thus limiting spaces for visitors.

“This has been recently discussed with Cornwall Council, where it was requested to tone down the number of red warning signs on display now that the message hopefully has been received, not to overstay. As always we urge Cornwall Council to consider the parking pricing structure, it needs to be reasonable and proportionate.”

A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “The city centre car park at Old Bridge Street in Truro remains as a short stay car park and its three-hour parking limit has not changed. We were finding that a significant number of motorists were parking here all day and essentially clogging up the car park when its purpose is to encourage a turnover of spaces and in turn increase footfall to the city centre. To address this and dissuade motorists from overstaying the three-hour limit, an ‘up to 24hr’ tariff has been introduced.

“The new charge will only apply to motorists who stay in the car park longer than three hours between 9am and 6pm. From 6pm to midnight motorists can stay for an unlimited time and only be charged the evening tariff of £2.10. Motorist can park in the car park from midnight to 9am for free.

“We have placed extra signs in the car park to remind motorists of the three-hour limit and the new charge for parking for longer than three hours between 9am and 6pm.”

Long stay car parks are also available in Truro including Garras Wharf, Moorfield, Edward Street and Moresk where Cornwall residents can park for less in a specified car park by purchasing a Resident Season Ticket.

Recent changes to the JustPark ‘multi-use’ sessions also bring down the cost for people who regularly park in council car parks. In response to feedback from residents, drivers can now use their sessions in most long stay council car parks, rather than in only one specified car park.