ANGER over the introduction of parking charges at a shopping centre in Widnes has led to concessions being made.

It comes after furious residents voiced their dismay over an announcement that they would have to pay to park at Green Oaks Shopping Centre.

The retail complex, which is home to more than 20 stores including the popular Morrisons supermarket, went under new ownership last year.

Parking meters have recently been installed at the site along with surveillance cameras, with managing agent Savills confirming a tariff of £1 per day has been introduced.

The company did however note that this will not include the parking adjacent to the Morrisons store.

Halton Borough Council called for an ‘urgent meeting’ with the owners to express ‘disappointment’, claiming the move to end free parking will have a detrimental effect on business in the town.

Now, following council leader Cllr Mike Wharton making representations on behalf of the council asking for the charges to be removed, a number of concessions have been made.

The shopping centre’s owners have agreed not to enforce any penalties for non-payment of charges until after May 10 to allow people to get used to the new system.

They will also provide some cash-paying machines, recognising that not everyone is comfortable with cashless systems.

In addition, they agreed to continue negotiations with the council, keeping the new arrangements ‘under constant review’, particularly in respect of the impact on customer attendance.

Cllr Wharton said: “While not going as far as we had wished, I am pleased that the owners have agreed some concessions and also agreed to keep the scheme under review.

“We will continue to make our representations.”

Many residents took to social media to express their disapproval over parking charges being introduced, with many describing the move as ‘pure greed’.

There was also a mutual consensus that many ‘travel specifically to Widnes for the market and free parking’.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Widnes resident Amy Hannah told the World: “In a time when families are suffering from such financial turmoil, it just means it is another cost to be added to your already soaring shopping bill.

“This means a lot of local businesses will suffer. I feel sorry for them as they cannot afford to absorb any loss of footfall caused by this, especially coming out of the Covid pandemic.”

Many also conveyed concern for the retailers on the site that may experience potential downfall in business, with one resident saying: “If they want to truly finish off Widnes once and for all, this is the way to do it.

“It is unfair to the market traders and smaller businesses who rely on this.”

Halton MP, Derek Twigg, spoke out on social media detailing his ‘disgust’ and concern, saying: “Widnes has always had free parking and it should remain that way.

“In the face of a cost-of-living crisis, this is a terrible decision for my constituents, local businesses and our area.”

In a statement, Savills said: “Following the Covid-19 pandemic, in order to generate further investment to guarantee the best possible experience for its customers, the centre will introduce a charge in order to maintain the parking facilities.

“Savills appreciates that the car park has always been free to customers of Green Oaks, and therefore has ensured the charge is nominal so the car park remains accessible to all.”

Halton Borough Council expressed their disapproval after being ‘left in the dark’ about the proposed parking charges.

It added: “The council was completely unaware of proposals to charge for parking at Green Oaks in Widnes town centre.

“The new owners of Green Oaks have not consulted with the Council on these proposals.

“The council is seeking an urgent meeting with the owners to express its disappointment, both with the proposal and the lack of consultation.

“Free parking has been an important advantage in attracting shoppers to Widnes, and the council believes that these measures will have a detrimental impact on retailers and visitors to the town, and will be counterproductive to all concerned.”