SHOPPERS have given their views on plans to end free Sunday parking in Blackburn town centre.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is to start charging on a Sunday for the first time from next month. The new fees for on and off-street parking in Blackburn have been condemned as ‘short-sighted’ and ‘fleecing’ drivers who want to go shopping by opposition councillors. They fear it could hit trade.

But council bosses say the Sunday fees would be low in comparison to other large towns and cities including Manchester, Bolton and Preston.

The charges of £1 for up to three hours and £2 for more than three hours are part of a general increase in parking costs agreed on Friday.

The council’s traffic enforcement officers will also be out on patrol on Sunday to ensure the new parking charges run smoothly.

Tony Duckworth, president of Blackburn and District Chamber of Trade said the proposed change was short-sighted and would put off drivers from coming to the town centre for shopping and leisure.

But the council said it had consulted with retailers who believed the changes would have little effect.

However, the new car parking charges have divided opinion among shoppers, with some saying the town could lose business as a result.

Lance Cook, 38, of Blackburn thinks the charges will hit low-income people.

He said: “I don’t agree with charges for parking on a weekend, because a lot of people need to get their shopping.

“It would affect people on benefits too, who go shopping on Sundays. But, maybe a lot of people would start walking instead.”

Bill Cotton, 68, who is staying with his sister in Blackburn, found no problem with the parking and thought it was fair and normal.

He said: “I don’t think it makes much difference really.

“Car parking charges are everywhere now, it’s not a problem. Street parking charges are common too, and I think they’re affordable.”

Peter Riley, 68, of Blackburn, was very much against the idea, saying he would ride a bike instead.

He said: “I think the new charges are ridiculous and especially hospital ones where even the staff have to pay.

“It should be a set and same price for however many hours, and the Sunday should be free.

“People come in town on Sunday and it will drive people away. It’s better to ride a bike now, you can get around easier and not pay parking.”

Patricia Olivant, 71, from Rishton, uses disabled parking, but her family members also drive.

She said: “I use disabled parking, so I park in those places, but I still don’t agree with the increase in parking charges.

“It’s especially not fair on a Sunday, people who come into the town will no longer do so if Sunday’s are not free.

“By charging for Sunday, they’re letting the shoppers go somewhere else.”

Sarah Subhani, 48, of Blackburn, also thought that the new increased charges and Sunday charges would deter people from the town.

She said: “I think it’s absolutely disgraceful because a lot of people wait to come shopping with their families on a Sunday and bring business into the town.

“The amount of time as well that parents get tickets due to waiting for kids is wrong.

“We need more people coming into town anyway with many stores closing, they should be giving more incentive to come shopping.

“People may even start going out of town, especially if they have children, and on Sundays the buses aren’t regular either.

“I work for a charity in Blackburn and a lot of people there cannot always afford parking for events.

“Councils should be supporting the shops and town centre trade, not penalising people to park.

“Especially as it comes up to holidays like Eid, Halloween, and Christmas."