CONTROVERSIAL plans to introduce parking charges in Johnstone and Renfrew have sparked an angry response from residents and business leaders.

The proposals, put forward by Renfrewshire Council, would see motorists being charged up to £2.90 to leave their cars in either town centre.

Council chiefs insist the move will help to attract more shoppers.

However, Johnstone Business Consortium (JBC) has branded the plan a “money-raising exercise” that will be of no benefit to communities.

Allan Henderson, JBC chairman, told The Gazette: “It is a disgrace. The plan is absolute nonsense.

“There is no way this should happen. What kind of councillor would vote in favour of something like this? If they do, they clearly don’t care about their area or the people in it.

“This plan must be opposed or it will have a terrible effect on shops in the town centre. It’s going to drive people away.”

Parking charges are already in operation in Paisley town centre, with council leaders keen to expand the ‘pay zones’ to Johnstone and Renfrew.

On weekdays, motorists would have to fork out 40p for 30 minutes, rising to £2.90 for a four-hour stay.

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 are to be asked to cough up £50 a year for a parking permit.

Labour councillor John Hood, whose ward includes Johnstone, claims the introduction of parking charges there would “destroy” businesses.

He said: “Although the town has small shops, they are all thriving in their own way.

“Parking charges, however, will destroy them. It will be even more tempting for people to drive to Braehead, where there is no charge to park.

“People will stop coming into the town centre and it will be a downward spiral for businesses.

“We should be trying to bring shops up and help business thrive but this will just ruin them.”

Fellow Johnstone councillor Derek Bibby added: “There are currently in the region of 600 parking spaces in and around Johnstone High Street and town centre.

“The rationale for this proposal is that it will increase footfall but the introduction of similar charges in Paisley had the opposite effect.

“As a Johnstone town centre councillor, I am vehemently against these proposals and I want to know if the local SNP councillors support them and, if so, how they can possibly justify them to the people of Johnstone.”

Meanwhile, residents in Renfrew have described the parking plans as “a disaster.”

Effie McGachie, president of Renfrew Community Council, said: “Parking on the High Street has always been an issue but this is not what we want.

“The council would be introducing these charges as a way to make money.

“The whole thing is a disaster. These charges won’t do anything to solve what is already a major issue in the town centre.

“Better parking should be the priority – not charging people for the limited space that we have.”

The plans will be discussed by councillors at today’s meeting of the Infrastructure, Land and Environment Policy Board.

Council chiefs insist the aim is to boost the number of spaces available to town centre businesses and visitors.

Parking would continue to remain free on Saturdays and Sundays across Renfrewshire.

Councillor Cathy McEwan, board convener, said: “We want to encourage shoppers and visitors into Renfrewshire and these proposals seek to make it easier for people to visit our town centres and give a boost to local businesses.

“It is important there is a turnover of parking spaces to allow people to drive into the town centre and have the opportunity to leave their car while they visit the shops, which may currently not be available due to long-stay parking.

“This, combined with the modernisation of existing meters to accept card payments, should lead to an increased footfall in our larger town centres and be of real benefit to the local economy.”

If the plans are approved, parking fees in Paisley would be increased next year, with charges in Johnstone and Renfrew introduced in 2019.