Tomorrow, Thursday, July 20, councillors from both Independents for Powys and the Independent group will join forces to highlight concerns and debate the cost of parking at a meeting.

Raising costs of parking have attracted criticism from traders around towns in Powys that have been affected by pay and display charges.

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.

The Brecon and Radnor Express ran the price increase in this week's paper, with people writing in to enquire why Talgarth parking remains free.

Hugh Garner traded on Builth Wells high street for 35 years. "I saw many such hikes and their negative effects on the town. What I would like to know is why has parking been free in Talgarth? Over many years I have asked several councillors but never had an answer. It has been a proven fact where parking is free a town centre will flourish."

The Brecon and Radnor Express contacted Councillor William Denston Powell, Assistant Vice-Chair of Council for the Welsh Liberal Democrats Group.

He said: "It is perhaps not surprising that traders in other Powys towns should question the parking regime in Talgarth. Local people will know the background, and understand why things are as they are currently. Historically, the introduction of car parking charges in Talgarth has been rejected on grounds of viability, which has intensified since the wind-down of the former Mid Wales Hospital in the 1990s, culminating in its closure in the year 2000.

"The closure had a devastating effect on the local economy, with a severe impact on the level of retail activity locally, including stalling the development of the visitor economy. The Mid Wales Hospital closure had an effect not dissimilar to the closure of a mine, in the South Wales coalfield communities. While Talgarth has started to develop positively in recent years, thanks to sustained local effort, the recovery remains fragile and, although the County Council’s long-term plan is to introduce car parking charges, it has not thus far been implemented. I have made the case for an exemption on a number of occasions, as have Town Council colleagues.

"The Town Square is about to be entirely redeveloped, with the imminent closure and relocation of the Town Centre Coop store from Liverpool House to a site adjacent to Talgarth Livestock, on the footprint of the former Highways depot. This site was sold for a substantial sum by Powys County Council in 2022, enabling its long overdue regeneration, after many years of neglect. The new store will provide in excess of 20 car parking spaces, including EV charging facilities, and is due to open in October 2023. While the future of the Town Square is potentially very bright, with the plan for the creation of smaller shop units, the forthcoming renovation of both Liverpool and London House will of necessity take some 12/18 months to complete.

"The intervening period will inevitably bring some challenge for other town centre businesses, which would make the introduction of car parking charges in the short to medium term counterproductive. Also, in light of Powys County Council’s recent substantial cash receipt from the sale of the previously derelict site, it would be iniquitous.

"Powys County Council’s Regeneration department has, in fact, recognised the unique challenges facing Talgarth, allocating Transforming Towns funding to Talgarth, alongside two smaller towns in Montgomeryshire, to enable a Place Planning project to take place. Once this investment has borne fruit and the town centre redevelopment has been completed, the situation can be looked on afresh."

A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “Proposals to introduce pay and display charges in the free car parks owned by the council have been put forward previously. However, these were not taken forward by previous administrations.”

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.