FURIOUS residents and business leaders have launched a campaign against “ill conceived and anti-business” parking charges that could be introduced in Johnstone.

Last week, The Gazette revealed that Renfrewshire Council put forward proposals that could see motorists charged up to £2.90 to leave cars in Johnstone and Renfrew town centres.

The council has argued the plans will help bring more shoppers to the area.

However, Johnstone Business Consortium (JBC) fear the proposals will have a damaging impact on business in the town and wider community.

JBC has called on the town to attend a meeting on the proposed charges in Johnstone Town Hall at 6pm this evening.

There are also plans to launch a petition which will be distributed in shops in the town and an online petition will be launched this week.

Allan Henderson, JBC chairman, said: “We need to put a line under this before it starts and becomes a major issue.

“This has caused a lot of talking in Johnstone and not one person I have spoken to thinks this is a good idea. Rather than waiting for this to happen, meetings will take place in an effort to solve and overturn this.

“Hopefully when the council see the colossal backlash from the public, council chiefs will realise that this is the wrong decision.”

Johnstone Community Council (JCC) has also vowed to work with the JBC to fight the proposals with its own meeting dedicated to the parking charges set to be arranged in the coming weeks.

Tom Wallace, JCC chairman, said: “JCC overwhelmingly agree that these proposals will have a negative effect on the Johnstone business community and oppose these car parking charges.

“Rather than bringing in shoppers, this is only going to drive them away elsewhere.

“We will be working closely with the JBC and councillors in opposing this.”

Initial proposals to introduce parking charges in Johnstone and Renfrew town centres were approved at Renfrewshire Councils Environmental Board last week, with SNP convener Cathy McEwan casting the deciding vote.

Labour councillor Derek Bibby, who represents Johnstone, said: “This is a total disgrace and will decimate businesses within the town.

“The seven SNP councillors who voted in favour of these charges do not remotely understand the town of Johnstone. I along with my colleagues will fight to have this ludicrous decision reversed.”

Cllr Andy Doig, who represents Johnstone North as an independent, added: “Slapping parking charges on Johnstone shoppers, which has just over 1,000 parking spaces, will not make substantial monies for the council coffers, but it will beggar the commercial and small business sector in Johnstone.

“Why should potential shoppers from the villages pay hefty car parking fees when they can drive less than 10 minutes to Braehead and park for free?”

Plans are also in place to increase charges in Paisley town centre, which currently stand at 30p for 30 minutes and £2.40 for four hours.

In addition, around 1,000 Paisley residents who live within pay-and-display zones will be asked to cough up £50-a-year for a parking permit.

Cllr McEwan said: “An impact assessment will be carried out with the results taken into consideration moving forward. We will listen to our local communities and businesses to ensure that these changes will make a positive difference in our town centres to the benefit of the local economy.

“The changes to current parking provisions are designed to generate a turnover of short stay parking spaces, allowing visitors the opportunity to utilise spaces which may currently be taken up by long stay parking, and bring more shoppers to local businesses. We have also made a commitment to modernise the parking facilities across the area, including enabling parking meters to accept a variety of payment methods, which will make it significantly easier for visitors to park in spaces across Renfrewshire.”