A BATTLE has erupted over parking in the centre of Woodstock following calls to to introduce charges.

Two former mayors believe that a ‘tighter regime’ in the form of a new charging system is what the town needs to alleviate the problem of overwhelmed spaces in the centre of the town.

The issue has caused a split in the town, with some seeing charges as a necessity and others believing a new system would have a negative impact on trade.

The current system, as in much of West Oxfordshire, is a form of restricted free parking, with drivers having a time limit to park in on-street spaces.

Councillor Brian Yoxall raised the matter at a meeting of Woodstock Town Council yesterday evening.

He said: “The most crucial factor affecting the availability of on-street parking in the town centre is the lack of regular enforcement and it is the view of some that a tighter regime could solve the problems currently encountered.

“My own view, shared by councillor [Peter] Jay, is that a more complete solution would be offered by introducing a sensible charging system.

"I think that any such system should be simple to use for the motorist and easy to implement for those enforcing it.”

The solution proposed by the former mayor would allow drivers to park for one hour for free.

Then a one-to-two hour stay would cost £1, a two-to-three hour stay £2, a three-to-four hour stay £3, and so on.

Mr Yoxall continued: “Such a system would still be attractive for short-stay shoppers whilst creating revenue to offset the cost of enforcement.”

The calls to introduce charges have been met with some objection in the town by those who fear it will drive shoppers away.

Taking to social media, resident Steve Matthews said: “There will be a number of disbenefits caused through forcing people to pay and display.

“A couple include reducing footfall and therefore profits of local businesses – do not forget that Witney is completely free to park in – and it would penalise local people.”

Similarly, Paul Smith joined in the debate with a warning for shops in the town centre.

He said: “It should be kept free. All this will do is move business to Kidlington or the surrounding areas.

"At a time when online shopping is booming, why would you charge for actually using a local shop and already paying more for that convenience because they can't compete on the high street?”

Councillor Sharone Parnes brought a motion to last night’s meeting – inviting his fellow councillors to ‘reaffirm’ the council’s policy of opposing parking charges, as previously determined in November last year.

Although the issue was debated last night charges cannot be introduced without the approval of highways authority Oxfordshire County Council.

For details on the outcome of the meeting visit witneygazette.co.uk