BUSINESS owners in Blakedown say they have seen a significant drop in footfall since parking charges went up this year.

Shop owners in the village say they have lost customers since June when the district council started charging shoppers at Wyre Forest's car parks to park for up to an hour.

Joanne Gardiner, postmistress at the village Post Office, said: "People have started going to Hagley instead because they can park outside and don't have to pay. We have lost some customers because of this.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Blakedown Parish Council vice-chairman Roger Shade, postmistress Joanne Gardiner and Crumbs cafe owner Jade BollyBlakedown Parish Council vice-chairman Roger Shade, postmistress Joanne Gardiner and Crumbs cafe owner Jade Bolly

"A pound might not seem like a lot but if you're only coming to the shop to get a stamp, you're not going to pay £1 to park.

"We have noticed a drop in customers and the pandemic has only made that worse. It's not just us either - it’s having a significant impact on a lot of the businesses here.

"The council should be encouraging people to shop local but this just puts people off visiting the village.

"You just can’t compare a village to a town and have the same rules for both, it’s completely different."

Jade Bolly, who owns Crumbs cafe, said: "We used to get some people coming in every day to pick up a newspaper or a pint of milk.

"It may only be £1 but when you come every day, it does add up. People can't afford it, especially since the pandemic."

A petition set up by Churchill and Blakedown Parish Council clerk Angela Preece calling for the one hour free parking offer to be reinstated at the village car park has been signed by nearly 300 people.

Parish council vice-chairman Roger Shade said: "We're only a small village. This is the business centre of Blakedown and that’s our only car park. People are really upset by this."

Wyre Forest District Council said it was waiting on a decision from Blakedown Parish Council to take over the village car park and said "the ball is in the parish council's court".

Councillor John Thomas, cabinet member for operational services, said: “The petition was drawn to our attention only on 9 November and we have not yet seen the full document. We will send a response when we have received it.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Wyre Forest District Council changed its parking charge structure in JuneWyre Forest District Council changed its parking charge structure in June

“The decision to remove free car parking in several car parks across the district was taken nearly a year ago and was implemented in April 2020, following formal consultation on the car parking order. Blakedown was covered by this process and treated in exactly the same way as other areas of the district.

“We are waiting the parish council’s decision on whether it wishes to buy the car park from the district council. It can then decide the structure of fees and provide a period of free parking if it wishes. The ball is in the parish council’s court.

“With funding from government, the district council has implemented business rate reliefs of up to 100 per cent and paid grants of thousands of pounds under various mandatory and discretionary schemes to many of the businesses in Blakedown – just as it has done across the district during the Covid-19 pandemic."