TRADERS in Usk are uniting in a campaign against the proposal to introduce car parking charges in the town.

At the first meeting of the newly-reformed Usk Chamber of Commerce, held at the Nag’s Head on Monday night, around 20 traders were unanimous that Monmouthshire council’s proposal to scrap free parking in Usk would have a devastating effect on the town if people had to pay to park.

A report, commissioned by the council from engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, also recommends increasing hourly parking rates by 20p in the council’s paid-for car parks and introducing Sunday and night charges in Abergavenny, Monmouth and Chepstow.

Phillip Mungeam, president of Usk Chamber of Commerce, said it would have a big impact on those living and working in the town.

Mr Mungeam, hairdresser and owner of Peruke Wigs, said: “There is a strong feeling around the whole of Usk. Businesses are working hard to compete with surrounding towns. To have an extra burden of charges to contend with is going to be the another nail in the coffin for traders.”

He added: “If they introduce parking charges the next thing we will see is permit parking. The whole town will get sucked down under and I can’t see how we will recover.”

Mr Mungeam said staff at The Usk Surgery at Maryport Street North Car Park, voiced concerns about parking and the cost for doctors, community nurses, health visitors, practice staff and patients who attend the surgery.

Steve Mustow, of The Kings Head Hotel, said if the proposal goes ahead he faces considering putting barriers at the two entrances to his car park to stop people from parking there.

Usk Mayor, Alec Leathwood criticised the lack of consultation by Monmouthshire with the Town Council over the issue and branded the proposal as ‘totally unacceptable’.

He said: “We have a small number of independent businesses, no large chains and are dependent on people coming in to shop. Introducing charges will see people drive past Usk and go to Cwmbran. We are totally opposed to the proposal.”

Charges for long and short stays in the council’s car parks are currently 80p for two hours, £1.30 for three hours and £1.80 for four hours. Five hours costs £2.80 and increases by a pound with every extra hour.

All-day stays cost £3.50. The report recommends a flat rate for two hours for £1, £2 for between three and four hours and £4 for all-day parking and that charging for people with blue badges is implemented by 2016/17.