A PETITION to stop street parking charges being introduced in Bridport is gathering momentum with nearly 500 supporters signing up in a day.

Market traders’ representative Roy Gregory started the online campaign to stop Dorset County Council proposals to bring in parking meters as it has done in Dorchester.

Mr Gregory said: “This campaign means a lot to me and the more support we can get behind it, the better chance we have of succeeding.”

He says blocking moves to make motorists pay will safeguard and protect Bridport’s historic market.

He said the campaign was important because the county council’s proposals would not, as claimed, promote economic growth or make the town safer, more attractive or generally nicer to visit.

He said: “It will have a negative impact on our local economy.

“It will damage the vitality of our town centre by discouraging essential passing trade to Bridport shops and the extremely popular street market which has traded almost continually since it was granted a charter by Henry III in 1253.

“It will destroy the unique character of one of the few towns left in the UK with a large number of small independent retailers and possibly the best market in the south west of England, which is a huge attraction for local people and visitors alike.”

He said if the county council demands compensation for the loss of income from parking meters on market days, it would lead to an increase market fees – which in turn would reduce the number of traders and damage the vibrancy of the market.

He added: “The street market and shops of Bridport are one of the cornerstones of the economic life of the town.

“With few other industries in the area offering employment opportunities, anything that damages or undermines the retail trade, will result in a bigger economic claim on council resources, than any income the county council is likely to generate from parking meter charges.”

Riffski Tilbury from Steptoes in East Street wholeheartedly supports the campaign.

He said: “It will destroy the unique character of one of the few towns left in the UK with many small independent shops and possibly the best market in the south west of England, which is a successfully attraction to tourists and visitors.”

Bridport Business Chamber has sent its written representation to the county council saying its members opposed the idea of off-street parking charges.

Matthew Piles, Dorset County Council traffic manager, is on record as saying the intention of the scheme is to promote economic growth in the towns.

He said the scheme would improve traffic flow by discouraging motorists from driving into town centres to park all day and blocking those spaces for people who want to park for a short time to shop, visit the library, and so on.

He added: “The scheme will generate cash that will go back into the county highways budget, providing funding for more sustainable traffic management projects and road improvements.”

The petition is at you. 38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-the-historic-street-market-of-bridport-dorset-1 and will eventually be handed in to Dorset county councillors.