TRADERS concerned at the introduction of charges at a free car park in Upton-uponSevern have begun a “save our car park” campaign.

They fear anything more than a “nominal” charge for the Old Street car park would put visitors off and hit local businesses hard.

Upton Town Council is in discussions with Malvern Hills District Council over the future of the car park.

One option being considered is “leasing” the car park to the district council for the next 30 years.

It would be run as a pay and display, with the town council relieved of maintenance and running costs and receiving an annual rent, initially between £300-500.

But Upton Tourism and Trade Association (UTTA) is urging town councillors not to “sell out” the car park.

It has circulated a petition and chairman Annette Keyworth said: “This car park is a huge asset to the town and if we were to hand over control to the district council we would lose control of any charges they wished to apply.

“UTTA and other local businesses are working hard to rebrand Upton and bring business into the town.

Adding car parking charges would not support what we are trying to achieve and could have a negative impact for local businesses.

“It is a town car park, not a district car park, and we should have the right to say what happens to it.”

Mrs Keyworth believes the best solution would be to allow free parking for two hours with a nominal fee of 20p an hour after that – echoing the views of Upton mayor Andrea Morgan.

She also supports a small charge when the car park is used for events.

Upton Town Council is due to debate the matter again on February 26, after discussions were deferred from its January meeting.

But the idea of a lease agreement split opinion, with some councillors keen on cutting out upkeep costs and guaranteeing an income and others concerned about handing over control and the introduction of charges.