CONCERNED traders in an Oxfordshire town have warned that the ‘dramatically low’ number of parking spots will soon be the ‘death knell’ for some shops.

Traders in Wantage have urged the town council to urgently address the lack of spaces for vehicles – with a multi-storey carpark being one of the solutions proposed.

With large chunks of the town centre pedestrianised for walkers and cyclists earlier this year, drivers have been forced to abandon their cars due to the lack of parking spaces.

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Wantage Town Council closed part of the Market Place to vehicles using temporary road barriers and stanchion road signs as part of measures which will last 18 months.

The sudden move was described as the ‘death knell of many independent shops, national stores, and the entertainment sector’ by a number of local traders, already put under pressure by the Covid-19 crisis and the steady rise of online shopping.

Herald Series:

Shoppers in Wantage this summer.

It followed a public survey by the council, which asked locals if they thought that temporarily closing half of the town centre would increase space for social distancing.

In response, Wantage and District Chamber of Commerce carried out its own research, asking residents how they would react to the reduction of parking in the town, which is ‘already stretched to the limit’.

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The stark results, which echo the fears of local businesses, revealed that 76 per cent of the 470 respondents said that they used a car to access stores as a majority of shoppers travel in from the outskirts of the town, new developments and the surrounding villages.

Even more, 70 per cent stated that ease of parking was a ‘major factor’ in deciding where to shop, and 62 per cent confirmed that if the parking was removed they would travel a little further to nearby towns with ‘plenty of parking’ such as Newbury and Didcot.

Herald Series:

One of the council-run car parks in Didcot.

Richard Shepherd, vice chairman of the Wantage and district Chamber of Commerce, commented on the results: “Businesses are deeply concerned about the potential devastation of the local economy.

“We all support the objectives of a greener town, and understand the perceived ideal of a pedestrianised zone with cycling and outdoor culture.

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“However, this cannot be at the expense of local businesses that rely on visitors or there will be no town to visit.

The chamber is now calling for the current lack of parking in Wantage to be properly addressed, possibly with a multi-storey carpark in the vicinity, before any scheme which reduces available parking is even considered.

This is also the second appeal that the chamber has made to the town council, having already highlighted the ‘dangers’ of the pedestrianisation scheme in September.

Mr Shepherd added: “Like high streets across the country, many Wantage independent businesses are already on their knees.

“The last thing they now need is a reduction of parking in the town which will lead to a substantial decrease in visitors.”