PARKING charges in Ledbury should be reduced to encourage more shoppers back into town now that stores are re-opening, says the traders association.

Herefordshire Council resumed parking charges in its car parks from Monday June 15 to coincide with the opening of non-essential shops, which Caroline Green, chair of the Ledbury Traders Association, called “a kick in the stomach for business owners”.

She said: “With the health and safety measures in place in all shops, customers have to wait longer to get into shops. I think a reduced, nominal amount, say £1 for the whole day, should be put in place so money can still be generated but shoppers can relax and not feel they have to rush because they only have two hours on the meter.”

Cllr Phillip Howells, the mayor of Ledbury, added: “By reducing parking charges, it would increase morale, making shoppers feel supported and we know from evidence across the country that people are very keen to get shopping again.

“We have many small, independent shops compared to Hereford so our customers need to be able to park close to the shops."

On March 24, car parking charges were suspended across the county, but resumed on June 15.

Charges vary at each of Herefordshire Council’s four car parks in and around Ledbury town centre. At St Katherines car park, its £1 for up to 1 hour, £2 for 2 hours, £3 for 3 hours and £4 for up to 24 hours.

Herefordshire Council decided to let drivers park for free for 30 minutes at on-street locations since June 15. It said it would make it easier for people making essential visits, such as trips to the pharmacy.

This came after criticism from traders over the council's decision to reintroduce tariffs on the same day non-essential retail stores reopen after the coronavirus lockdown.

A council spokesman defended the decision by saying the charges are an essential element in the operation of town centres.

"By charging for parking, we are able to limit the length of time vehicles are parked in one place, which allows for greater freedom of movement and more opportunity to find a parking space for all our residents," they added.

"The council is continuing to support NHS and critical care staff during this period by providing free parking, which can be arranged through their employer. Free short stay on street parking is also available in all of the market towns."

Cllr John Harrington, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport at Herefordshire Council, added: “Parking charges are an essential element in our towns and city centres where demand for parking space requires careful management.

"Throughout this crisis Herefordshire Council took the decision to temporarily suspend charges to allow key workers and those going about their essential business to do so without worrying about purchasing a ticket.

“As we return to work, there will inevitably be an increase in car traffic, and it is therefore more important than ever that we park considerately and comply with parking regulations to ensure goods and services can be delivered, and parking spaces are available to all.”