AN East Oxford restaurateur has criticised a ‘horrendous’ move to increase charges at a car park that has been closed for over a year so that new flats can be built.

Oxford City Council is planning to put up the charges in the St Clement’s street car park as controversial construction work in the area nears completion.

Work to build accommodation for 140 students above the car park started in April last year, and since then there has been a drastic reduction in the number of spaces available for shoppers.

During the construction work the number of spaces has been reduced from 120 to 23 on some occasions.

David Kennedy, manager of Fishers Restaurant, said: “We have had to close on Monday to Thursday lunchtimes and lay people off because of it.

“It has had a huge effect and it has been a very difficult year.

“I think it is horrendous that they are now putting the parking charges up.”

Graham Jones, of traders group ROX, said businesses in the area now need a break when builders finish work in August.

He said: “It does seem a bit of a shock that they are putting parking charges up, bearing in mind that traders have had to put up with the disruption and closure of the car park.

“Businesses down there deserve to have some sort of encouragement.”

Ed Turner, the deputy leader of the city council, said: “The council set a budget in February that had a marginal increase in car park income and this is just the implementation of that.

“There is no wider agenda regarding St Clement’s.

“We cannot go creating shortfalls but we will keep our charges under review and consult as we always do on our policy, going forward for next year’s budget.”

The charges will be increased by 10p across the board as part of a traffic order that will also bring about the closure of the temporary Marston Road car park.

It would mean that an hour of parking would go up from £1.20 to £1.30, while two hours of parking would go up from £2 to £2.10 and three hours of parking would increase from £3 to £3.10. The temporary car park in Mar-ston Road was opened by the city council during the construction work, with a free shuttle bus going to St Clement’s.

Clinton Pugh, owner of Cafe Coco in Cowley Road, has been among the most vocal critics of the city council’s handling of the development.

He said: “All the traders in the area have lost out because of this. I would have car parking fees lower to encourage business to come into the area.”

Businesses in St Clem-ent’s Street are get five per cent rate relief backdated to when the work started to compensate them for the disruption.

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