A parking war has erupted between aggrieved High Street residents and Wincanton Town Council.
Dozens of unhappy homeowners living at the top of the town’s High Street are calling for the introduction of a residential parking permit scheme.
They say it will let them park for longer on High Street, which is currently subject to a one-hour parking restriction enforced by Somerset County Council.
However, Wincanton Town Council has pledged to fiercely oppose the request amid fears it could take spaces away from shoppers.
South Somerset district councillor and Wincanton town councillor David Norris lives at the top of High Street. He said: “I believe a residents’ parking scheme would be appropriate. If the bays we’re talking about were full up all of the time with shoppers it would be a different story, but it is too far up High Street for them.
“The spaces outside our homes wouldn’t affect trade at all. The bays we’re talking about are completely empty but residents can’t park there for more than one hour, meaning they have to park around the corner at the inconvenience of somebody else.”
The responsibility for civil parking enforcement transferred from the police to Somerset County Council in June.
Since then, residents have seen the town’s parking restrictions tightly upheld – with fines being handed out to offenders.
Liz Ashley, who lives on High Street, said: “I don’t mind if people park outside my house, but if the spaces are free I would like to leave my car there for longer.
“It’s a bit of a daily struggle when I’m here worrying if the car is over the meter or not.
“Having a residents’ permit scheme would not affect trade or commerce in the town. I’m not demanding we have a God-given right to park there, but it is silly if the bays are free most of the time.”
Somerset County Council says it will consider a residents’ parking scheme if a majority of residents are in favour, once its new enforcement system is established.
In a survey carried out by some High Street residents, more than 80 per cent called for a residential permit scheme.
However, Wincanton town councillors opted to oppose any requests for such a scheme to be introduced.
Town councillor Richard D’Arcy said: “There’s a danger in setting a precedent here. It’s all about helping the High Street trade.
“We’ve spent lots of money providing the free car parking in the town, and all this situation highlights is that people have been abusing the system for years. Nothing new has been introduced.”
Town councillor Maureen Emery, who also lives on High Street, added: “The tightly-enforced parking restrictions are the best thing that’s ever happened.
“The shoppers come and go all the time, and it is very easy to park.
“If 50 people buy a residential permit they will be able to leave their car on High Street all day and night. If that happens, then where will everyone else park?”
Councillor Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for Highways, said: “While I appreciate that people will inevitably have noticed an increase in the enforcement of the street parking regulations, it is not by any means excessive. I would point out that these regulations are not new, they are just being better enforced.”
He added that any new residents’ parking scheme would involve careful assessment of the parking situation in that area, and a “wide public consultation.”