Concerns about the rising cost of parking in Powys are being discussed at a Powys County Council meeting next week, with Fay Jones MP for Brecon and Radnorshire writing to Cabinet members with concerns from businesses in the area.

It comes after local businesses in Powys fear that increased costs are affecting how their business is run.

Christina May West owned a shop on Lion Street in Brecon but gave it up in April due to increased costs on the consumer.

"I gave up Shop One in April," she said. "I had regulars from Swansea, Merthyr who loved to come to Brecon for a day out and shop when it was free parking post Covid. Once petrol prices increased and parking fees reintroduced there was an immediate effect on my business."

She believes that the increasing costs affect how people shop: "Parking fees have an effect on how people shop, as customers could not relax and browse. They would be in a rush as they were on a time schedule. Customers had to buy items in a limited time, and were often stressed as they did not want a parking ticket."

Currently, there are fears that Powys town centre businesses are suffering as people avoid shopping there due to the cost of parking. The car parking fees were increased as part of the 2023/2024 budget by the Liberal Democrat/Labour/Green administration which runs the council. In most Powys car parks, the cost is £2.50 for two hours, rather than one hour for £1.

Other residents don't see an issue with the increased cost, with one person saying: "The car parking costs don't stop me from visiting Brecon or Hay. They're actually not that bad." With another saying that half-hour parking should be free for those looking to pop into a shop.

Lucy Alice, who owns Friends for Pets, finds that she has to absorb the costs herself to keep clients.

"We often dog walk at the prom and the cost of parking isn't something we can charge our clients for, so it's taking a big chunk out of pet carers' wages," she said. "We've already had to increase our prices earlier this year because of cost of living increases and minimum wage increases."

Councillors from both Independents for Powys and the Independent group have joined forces to highlight concerns and debate the cost of parking, at a meeting on Thursday, July 20.

In a letter to Cabinet members at Powys County Council, Fay Jones wrote: "Following the Covid-19 pandemic I have received significant correspondence from businesses and constituents in Brecon and Radnorshire about car park ticket prices, even more so since your recent decision to increase one-hour car parking from £1 to £2.50 in most Powys car parks. As constituents continue to struggle in the current cost of living crisis, with interest and mortgage rates increasing too, this is simply too much. It is not sustainable for constituents, it puts visitors off visiting the area and it threatens small businesses who are also struggling to keep their front doors open whilst competing with online shopping trends."

Ms Jones also noted that Labour and Liberal Democrat members have called for lower parking prices for several years, but now they are in control of the Council, they want to put prices up.

Ms Jones also highlighted comments made by Labour Cllr Matthew Dorrance to the previous Cabinet on June 23 2020, in which he asked: “Councils across Wales are considering how they can best help and support their local economies to build back better. Councils such as Bridgend and Carmarthenshire have all suspended parking charges at Council-run car parks to help High Streets. So far, Powys County Council has refused to do this. Will Powys County Council suspend parking charges to help our High Streets? If not, will the Cabinet explain why it believes our High Streets do not need this help?”

Cllr Matthew Dorrance responded, saying: "“I am pleased to learn that our Tory MP has woken up to the fact that our communities are living through a cost of living crisis. A crisis that has been made in Downing Street.

 “Rather than slinging mud at the local Council which is trying to support our communities and protect front-line local services, she should be calling out the policies of her UK Conservative Government which has stood idly by while interest rates rocket, mortgages increase, food prices rise, and wages stagnate. 

 “As a member of the UK Government, the MP is in a prime position to take action to help end this cost of living crisis. It is clear that we need a general election to end this terrible Tory government and elect a UK Labour government that will act for the people of Powys.”

Ms Jones went on to say in her letter to Cabinet Members: "I would also like to request you consider free car parking on occasions to help promote local events such as Brecon Jazz, Brecon Food Festival and Llandrindod Wells Carnival, which deliver significant benefits for the local economy."

In the letter, Ms Jones highlights questions posed by Welsh Liberal Democrat member Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe in 2020. On June 11 2020, Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe asked the previous cabinet: "Are Powys County Council looking to support our fragile business communities post Covid-19 with any kind of parking charge reduction or for a free period to encourage people to shop in our towns to help businesses?"

Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe, of Hay Town Council, is supporting the motion going to the council next week. He said: "I'll be supporting the local chamber of trade in their view to encourage people to shop in Hay. I raised concerns and my disappointment over the removal of one hour. I will be supporting the review of it, and hopefully the reinstallation of it. My concern is around the removal of one-hour parking in large car parks, especially in Hay where we have limited parking. I have previously supported tourism and keeping the charges to a minimum, and I will carry on representing my residents in doing that.

"I supported the budget, but my understanding was that we weren't going to lose the one-hour parking, which we did. I raised my concerns on that, and I will carry on fighting for the chamber of trade and the local businesses."

A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “The council can confirm that it has received correspondence from Fay Jones MP regarding the car parking charge increases.  Cabinet will consider the contents of the letter and a response will be provided in due course.

“Full Council will also be debating a motion regarding car parking charges on Thursday, July 20. The outcome of the motion will be considered by Cabinet.”