LOCAL businesses in Crieff are worried for their future after parking charges were increased across the area last week.

This was agreed at the Enterprise and Infrastructure Committee last Wednesday (November 23) and will come into effect from April 1. But local businesses are worried that this has come at the "worst time".

Shop owners on Crieff High Street worry that in the current climate this will deter customers or visitors to the town and affect their businesses.

It was recommended to increase the basic one hour parking charge in car parks in Crieff from 70p to 80p, with consequential increases in other time bands and parking permits.

But shop owners say the "10p increase will make all the difference".

A new arrival to the area, Paul Clark, moved to Crieff last month with the intention of opening up a new boutique just off the High Street but the news of the increase has made him think twice. He said: "It's a difficult time to be starting a new business anyway without more hurdles to jump over." Councillor Ann Cowan called the move "madness" at this time, saying: "While shops and businesses struggle with low growth, and in particular when shopping on line is becoming more the norm, it makes no sense at all to make it more expensive to go shopping in town. We should be bending over backwards to try to help our shops and restaurants etc, rather than burden them with a further barrier to trade. This shocking rise is double the rate of inflation." "I do question whether the SNP Administration in Perth and Kinross Council has really worked out the true costs of this foolish move? Altering all the parking metres and ticket machines, as well as changing the signage will all cost a lot of money. How long will it take for those costs to be met by the increase in the charges? Some considerable time, no doubt, and so one wonders what is the point of it?" Councillor Ann Gaunt added: "The primary purpose of the parking account is to provide for the operation of the parking service. This allows us to operate and maintain our parking areas and ensure we can provide modern, safe parking facilities in Perth and Kinross.

"It is estimated that the increased charges will create additional income each year of around �250,000."�