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Around 1,000 sign petition against Waitrose parking crackdown as politicians call for compromise

PUBLISHED: 11:47 26 September 2016

Mark Watson, owner of Hair Underground, with the petition

Mark Watson, owner of Hair Underground, with the petition

Archant

Local business owners say they are losing out but supermarket refuses to back down

Around 1,000 people have now signed a petition in protest at Waitrose Longfield’s parking crackdown as local politicians called for a compromise.

The supermarket’s new policy of enforcing a 90-minute time limit on parking has caused outrage among residents unable to complete their shopping trips and local businesses losing their custom.

While Waitrose claims the measure is designed to crack down on commuters, residents have branded it unfair and called for a rethink - but the supermarket is refusing to back down.

A petition set up by the owner of Hair Underground has attracted “well over 500” signatures, while an online petition on Change.org has more than 400.

Hair Underground owner Mark Watson, who has had a business in the village for more than 30 years, told the Reporter: “The level of feeling is extremely high.

“We have had little old ladies with £70 fines for going to the doctor’s. It always used to be the village car park where everyone parked.

“Before, I had a very amicable relationship with Waitrose and a card that my customers could give to the customer services desk. That agreement has been completely disregarded.

“What commuter is going to be one-and-a-half hours? It is totally ridiculous.

“To get round Waitrose will take that amount of time. The butcher is extremely concerned about the effect it is having on him.”

Local politicians have now weighed into the debate, with Dartford MP Gareth Johnson calling on the supermarket to listen to residents’ concerns.

“I hope that Waitrose will listen to the concerns of local people and allow longer periods of time than 90 minutes,” he said.

“I appreciate they want to prevent commuters using the car park but visitors to Longfield can often need more time than they currently have.

“Longfield has an excellent High Street and Waitrose is important to the local area so I hope a compromise can be found that works for everyone.”

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite has also called for compromise.

“I think it is a matter of some regret they have taken this action and made this parking time so short,” he said.

“Waitrose are a great retailer, but they have a lot of responsibility to help the other retailers.

“The car park is a very large one and was used de facto as a public car park for a few years.

“Let’s make the time longer, for three or four hours, to allow people to do a short shopping trip in the village.

“They are a big asset to the village, but I do not think it is good for Waitrose to have lots of fines going out.

“I understand they can’t have commuter car parking, but I would be in favour of a three or four-hour restriction.”

Despite these calls for lenience, Waitrose has refused to back down on the issue. A spokesperson said: “We provide 90 minutes free parking, but we are very close to the station and more than a third of the car park has been subject to increasing abuse on a daily basis from people parking there all day throughout the week.

“This prevents those who genuinely wish to shop with us or visit other local businesses in the high street from being able to park and it was clear this needed to be addressed.

“We have not changed the time allowed previously and discretion was used while people got used to the new system. We want to provide a facility that enables more people to visit the town and the feedback from our customers has been positive.”

The online petition can be reached here.

What do you think? Email Simon.Allin@Archant.co.uk

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