From Mark Horton, owner of French Franks in Newport, Ryde and Cowes:

Town centres face many challenges, including changes in shopping habits and outdated and penal business rates.

But of all of them parking charges are the fundamental negative that changes a town, from one which is convenient for small-purchase quick stops to one to avoid, unless there is a very clear and pressing reason to go, it is not even just the money it is lack of convenience.

Short-term free parking is an essential component of any vibrant small to medium-sized town, reflecting the type of visits and shopping which now take place.

Quite simply, parking charges drive trade from town and destroy vitality,. Without footfall the other factors become secondary and it is parking which is a locally managed and here where town centre vitality clashes with addiction to parking revenues of the local council.

Although national government receives the business rates, with Newport High Street rated at £500 to £600 per square metre, generating literally millions of pounds for the exchequer, we invariably feel penalising the customers to visit on top is profoundly unfair.

Few believe towns will return to historic activity levels but a vibrant, if reduced, town centre is realistic.

Key towns on the Island have immediate 30,000-plus surrounding populations who come to town to work, socialise, deal with their affairs and shop for impulse, convenience and occasions — they are an important community and social centre and a marker evident to residents and visitors  of an areas well-being.

Business still employs large numbers of people, especially in flexible working roles which are important to community — many a  career has started or developed in town centre business and many youngsters gain their work experience and important employability skills. We ourselves employ 36 colleagues within our three branches.

As an Island economy with a resident population of 140,000 or so, plus summer visitors, to not have a thriving county shopping town in Newport has to be a long-term strategic failure and it needs a more a positive plan.

Ryde, despite the loss of many of the national retailers, has begun to recover with a vibrancy and localised economy in a very positive way (not by co-incidence focused around the lower end of town where parking is convenient) and it is here we fear the most the introduction of new parking charges would be destructive and impact the town profoundly.

Of course we recognise the council dilemmas with insatiable demand for adult social care and housing etc, but increased and new parking charges which may plug a leaking bucket in the near-term budget will only serve to undermine the towns and sow deeper long-term problems.  

We really hope that proposals are reconsidered and that business and communities are vocal enough to change minds and prevent charges which would be socially and economically destructive.