Plans to hike up parking charges and make big changes to traffic management around High Wycombe town centre have been slammed amid fears they could “squeeze” businesses and discourage shoppers.

HWBIDCo, which represents town centre businesses, has written to both Wycombe District Council (WDC) and Bucks County Council (BCC) to express its “disappointment” at the plans.

The Bucks Free Press revealed last month that parking charges will go up in all WDC-owned car parks for the first time in 10 years – some by as much as 133 per cent.

Meanwhile, BCC has proposed a raft of changes to parking and traffic management in the town centre – including converting the existing “goods vehicle loading only Mon-Sat 6am-6pm” to “no stopping at any time except taxis” from the High Street and converting “disabled badge holder only” to “no waiting at any time”.

BCC said the proposals will “encourage longer-stay parking” in off-street car parks and ensure a “greater turnover of parking spaces”.

However, Melanie Williams, BID manager at HWBIDCo, said the plans will negatively affect businesses in the town centre.

Speaking about BCC’s proposal, she said: “Whilst national guidance still favours getting cars out of the town centres, there is still clear benefit to shoppers and businesses having free short stay parking for those quick convenience purchases – whether it’s popping into Primark to get that matching accessory or driving to collect a cake or coffee.

“This kind of trade hugely benefits town centre trade and particularly supports independent traders and those who are starting new businesses. We want to encourage this.

“New businesses trial new ideas and continue to improve the overall town centre offer, businesses are adapting to the changing trading environment, but they need support for this and one of the key issues for our town centre businesses is to provide affordable employee car parking and appropriate short and long stay car parking.

“For that reason, we are disappointed to see proposals that could further squeeze businesses, particularly at this time when the shape of local government is changing and bringing with it a certain unpredictability.”

Ms Williams also said HWBIDCo also “strongly objects” to the increase in WDC car parks.

She said: “Whilst we welcome the introduction of new technology and seamless payment processes, we resist an increase to parking charges as we feel these are disproportionate and lack consideration towards the priorities of the business community.

“We must ensure that our town centre car parks are financially and physically accessible to all, fully utilised and fit for purpose before making considerable changes. We do not believe this is the time to add more barriers or hurdles for businesses to overcome.”

In response, Cllr Julia Adey, WDC’s cabinet member for environment, said: “Deciding to increase parking costs isn’t taken lightly and they are never welcomed.

“But parking charges in the district have not kept up with inflation or compared to neighbouring towns. These increases will help to bring our charges back in line with neighbouring towns and ensure the service pays for itself, rather than expecting residents to subsidise users through higher council tax.

“The council continues to take a proactive role in supporting the town centre so that it can continue to thrive, and the additional income will make it easier should we need to expand our car parks.”

In response to requests for free parking in the town centre, Mark Averill, head of highways at Transport for Bucks, said: “The council takes the view that those who use a service should pay for, or contribute towards the cost of that service. It follows that motorists who benefit from the ability to park should at least contribute towards the cost of enforcement rather than the burden of this activity falling to non-motoring residents.

“In towns like High Wycombe that attract a lot of visitors it is also reasonable that the driver should not have free parking that is paid for indirectly by Buckinghamshire’s residents. TfB’s Parking Services team has offered to meet with HWBIDCo’s manager to discuss parking in High Wycombe.”