Worried business leaders in Ampthill fear new plans to slash the amount of on-street parking could sound the death knell for the historic Georgian market town, writes Mal Tattersall.
Central Beds Council wants to put down double yellow lines along several roads in the town and limit the length of time people can park in other places.
At the same time developers Dandara are appealing against a decision to refuse planning permission for eight more homes on the site of a 100-place car park near the church.
And supermarket Waitrose have cut the maximum stay for shoppers in its car park to just 90 minutes.
Now local shopkeepers and business owners are demanding councillors urgently come up with a parking solution before Ampthill is turned into a ghost town.
They point out that several town centre shops have closed in recent months, including the long-established Richardson’s jewellers, along with the town’s only bank.
The latest victim is the popular Cook’s Collection shop and café in Bedford Street, who said on Facebook: “Unfortunately, due to the pressures facing such as the bank closure, Waitrose car parking issues and further planned parking restrictions, this has resulted in reduced footfall to all businesses.”
At a breakfast meeting organised by the Ampthill Business Chamber, Anthony Northey warned restricting on-street parking would “destroy Ampthill as a shopping centre”.
He said: “Neither the town council nor Central Bedfordshire Council has a proper parking strategy.
“A survey showed there was a deficiency of between 100 and 150 parking spaces in 2014. Since then the population has mushroomed with large scale housing developments and now we face losing another 30 to 40 spaces. It’s stupid to ban parking without providing any alternative.”
Local builder Mick Driver told the meeting that both town and district councils had let the town down.
He called on councillors to negotiate to buy the Dandar site from the developer and run it as a car park for people working in the town and those coming in to shop.
A spokesman on Ampthill TV Forum site said: “What will be left of the local shops? All we seem to have now is estate agents, eateries, coffee shops, and charity shops.”
Recalling the town during the 1980s, she added: “We used to have two chemists, four butchers, two or three grocers, a dairy, a DIY, a greengrocer and two or three clothes shops.
“You could buy a pair of knickers or pants and the elastic to go in them. You could buy a coffee at the White Hart, to say nothing of the best fish and chips. You didn’t really need to go into Bedford. It was all on your doorstep.”