Councillors backtracked on a decision to introduce Sunday parking charges in Maidenhead town centre after a petition with just under 3,000 signatures was presented to the Royal Borough.
The plan to introduce charges was branded ‘illogical’ and with a ‘heavy heart’ Cllr Rayner, the cabinet member for Highways and Transport proposed a motion to defer their introduction until at least 2017/18.
The petition, led by Maidenhead and District Chamber of Commerce was presented at full council at Windsor Guildhall on Tuesday.
The parking charges were supposed to come into effect on Monday, April 4 and were expected to raise £40,000 a year.
Marc Jones, vice president of the chamber who presented the petition.
He said: “Why would they introduce Sunday parking charges at this time? Why didn’t the council consult with residents and stakeholders about it?
“Maidenhead could become a ghost town on Sundays. The council is gambling with Maidenhead town centre.”
He also added comparing Maidenhead with Windsor and High Wycombe would be like ‘comparing apples with pears’.
Cllr Rayner said a ‘tough decision’ had to be made and reminded councillors about free on-street parking available in Maidenhead.
He said: “Just last weekend I counted 150 spaces available on the street. It is with a heavy heart that I propose we defer parking charges until at least 2017/18 and if they are picked up they will have proper consultation.”
Many councilors expressed their support, including Cllr Malcolm Beer (Ind, Old Windsor) who said: “BHS is in a dreadful state, we need to support traders.”
Cllr Philip Love (Con, Belmont) told the meeting events such as Shabbytique and Eat on the High Street were bringing people to the town centre on Sundays and relied on free parking.
Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) urged the council to drop the charges all together.
He said: “Postponing the charges sends a terrible message to businesses that they will have to go through this whole thing in a year's time when Maidenhead will be at its most vulnerable.”
Cllr Jack Rankin (Con, Castle Without) believed that a test of fairness should be applied, asking the council if it would be ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’ if Maidenhead did not pay Sunday parking fees while people in Windsor did.
He said: “Do we make policy based on petitions and press coverage?”
In a named vote the motion was passed with 37 councilors voting for the charges to be delayed, 12 voting against and three abstentions – leader Cllr David Burbage, deputy leader Cllr Simon Dudley and the mayor, Cllr Eileen Quick.
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