A PEEBLES shopkeeper has made a plea for free parking in the town centre to be retained amid calls for a charging regime.

Retailer David McGrath believes that the current free parking system is an asset in attracting people to shop there.

He was speaking at a meeting of Peebles Parking Group, which has been examining the possibility of introducing charges at the town’s Kingsmeadows, Neidpath and East Station (Edinburgh Road) car parks, the latter of which does charge on a Saturday.

It is a direction of travel that Mr McGrath is eager the group does not go down.

He said: “I can only speak as a shopkeeper but I think free parking is a huge bonus for the town. You need to promote Peebles as a destination to come to and free parking is an asset and when you start to charge local people I think it’s going to start driving them away.

“You can see people trying to put their money in [the machine] and when the money falls through they see it’s free parking and they say, ‘That’s fantastic’. Speaking on behalf of the traders, we have a wee association now, everybody says it’s an asset for the town to have free parking because it means the people can stay.”

Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler responded: “I get what you say about it being an asset but I have also observed in the summer months going into that car park (East Station) and being unable to park and seeing other people being unable to park and going round and round the car park and then leaving.

“So there is also an argument that you want to try and get turnover in the car park so people are able to stop and shop but are also encouraged to move on.”

Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small said: “It would be a way of bringing some finance into the pot. We’re not asking to rob people with the parking charges. It would just be a minimum charge, one pound for four hours, people wouldn’t begrudge that. It could just generate some income.”