Empty shops and a perceived reduction in the number of visitors to Epworth could all be down to keen traffic wardens, claim the town’s business community.
Again, the prevalence of wardens around the town centre, and their willingness to issue parking tickets promptly, has locals up in arms. Two hours’ free parking is offered in Epworth centre, but anyone who does not return to their vehicle within that time runs the risk of a ticket and fine.
Businessman Harold Woolgar, based in Epworth, said: “Wardens are now visiting two or three times weekly. No wonder we now have five empty shops – they are frightening shoppers away.
“It makes me wonder if their salaries are being paid by supermarkets that deliver by diesel-fumed vans seven days, even on Sunday evenings, into Epworth.
“Is there a grand plan to make one of the top tourist destinations into no more than night time take aways?”
Epworth resident and former town councillor Liz Fennell added: “It’s a tourist route.
“We’re trying to make the town more popular but the traffic wardens are being over-zealous.
“On three days recently there were three traffic wardens... that’s not going to help footfall for the businesses.
“People are going to come into the village for a look around, have a tea or a coffee and if they get a ticket they won’t come again. We want to encourage people to come, not discourage.”
Clare White, a staff member at Novello Hair Design on Church Street, said that wardens can be a real issue for their customers.
She explained: “It is a problem for us when we want to encourage people to come and give us their custom.
“There’s many a time a customer has to dash out with wet hair because they are afraid of receiving a ticket.
“It’s usually not their fault either....treatments can take longer than planned or a previous customer who is late can delay matters...then you get the backlash.
“The whole thing can be stressful for our customers and for us. Parking time should be extended to three hours if it can’t be free altogether in the town centre.
She added: “People complain a lot about parking and the wardens. We do need something doing about it – it’s gone on too long.”
Maggy Truelove of the Wishing Well shop said: “This does all need to be looked at. A lot of people are put off coming to Epworth because of the parking attendants –that’s a definite.
“We can have two here every day for a period. It seems a bit ridiculous for such a small place.”
Epworth Town Council chairman Gary Baker said: “Members of the business community have attended Epworth Town Council meetings on a number of occasions and have brought to our attention what has been described as ‘over-zealous’ enforcement of current parking regulations in Epworth.
“As a result the council forwarded these concerns to North Lincolnshire Council who investigated a number of incidents on behalf of Epworth Town Council.
“Representations were also made about a change to parking regulations on Albion Hill, Epworth. The town council has supported the changes suggested and a formal consultation process is currently being conducted by North Lincolnshire Council. The town council continues to work very closely with representatives of the business community with a view to ensuring that parking in Epworth does not prove a barrier to tourism and commerce in the town.”
A North Lincolnshire Council spokesperson said that throughout July and August, officers visited Epworth eight times.
She added: “They patrol areas as much as they can to ensure that traffic is moving freely and drivers are obeying the restrictions.
“This enables shoppers and visitors to the town to have access to parking.
“If parking restrictions were not in place, there would be less movement of traffic and it would restrict the number of visitors.
“We would encourage drivers to always abide by the parking regulations, then they are not going to put themselves at risk of getting a fine that could have been avoided. It also makes it fairer for all visitors.”
All parking restrictions in Epworth can be viewed at: http://maps.northlincs.gov.uk/iSharewebin.Web/myNorthlincs.aspx.