INDEPDENDENT retailers in Hereford fear that the city could become "dead" if plans to charge people for on-street parking go ahead.

The Hereford Times reported last week that a "charging option" will go out to shoppers and traders as part of a Herefordshire Council consultation exercise next month.

Motorists can currently park free of charge in a number of places near High Town and the cathedral.

Castle Street offers drivers a free two-hour period, while visitors can park free of charge in Bridge Street for an hour.

Vehicles can also be left in St Owen Street for up to half an hour without payment.

Neil Clarke, who runs Tanners Wines in St Peter's Square, said that any potential charge will have a detrimental effect on trade in the city centre.

"I am against anything that will discourage people from coming into town," said Neil.

"People are already finding traffic in Hereford horrendous and they do not come into the city centre if there is nowhere to park.

"We have loading bays outside our shop and we advise people to park further down.

"If you start charging in St Owen Street, then there will be nowhere for them to park if they want to come in here.

"This city has historical trading ties going back to medieval times, but the city centre is dying on its feet."

In a ballot, 84% of 453 people who voted said that they would not be happy to pay to leave their vehicle on the street.

Angela Siemieniuk, who owns the Hat Trick shop in East Street, said people should be allowed to park for up to an hour for free.

"St Owen Street can accommodate up to 70 cars, but half an hour is not enough," she said.

"I'm not totally opposed to the idea, because I know that the council has to generate revenue, but if it does go ahead, then there should be machines at either end of St Owen Street for people to pay.

"And even then, the first hour should be free."

Fellow East Street trader Cherry Savidge, who runs a fashion store in the street, said: "The council is making it harder and harder for people to come into town.

"If people are asked to pay on the streets, they will just go into other towns, like Ledbury and Hay, where they can park and do their shopping.

"We are just going to have a dead city in Hereford."