HESWALL business owners and members of the local community took to the streets on Friday to protest against the increased parking charges in the town.

Members of Heswall and District Business Association (HDBA) have mounted a legal challenge against the increases which were implemented in April 2013 and saw the cost of parking for one hour shoot up from 30p to £1.05. All day parking rose to £8.

The parking charges apply seven days a week from 8am until 6.30pm, which campaigners say is in contrast to other local towns where free parking is offered every day.

Despite a drop of more than 8,000 ticket sales in 2013/14 compared with the same period in 2012/13, the total net income from Heswall’s 488 car parking spaces has risen from £123,365 to £189,392, according to figures from Wirral Council.

Campaigners say the telling statistic is how long people are now parking, with figures showing the average time spent in Heswall’s car parks has fallen from between three and four hours to just one hour.

Speaking at the peaceful protest today, Karl Mullins – chair of the HDBA – said the charges are “destroying” the town.

He said: “£1.05 is just theft, it should be down to a maximum of 50p.

“It’s destroying our community and it’s affecting all our businesses – it’s destroying the town and businesses are closing as a result.”

Abbas Hussain, HDBA member and owner of Principal Pets on Telegraph Road, said: “Some businesses have reported a downturn of over 25% since the increased charges were introduced.

“If the charges are not urgently decreased we will inevitably lose some local services such as the library and community centre through lack of use.

“If we lose these services and a couple of retailers, a vicious circle could ensure, with fewer people attracted to the town due to lack of services.”

The HDBA believe the increase is in contravention of the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act.

Councillor Stuart Whittingham, Wirral’s cabinet member for highways and transportation, said the authority is “acutely aware of businesses’ concerns” and has been talking to those involved to “seek a solution”.

He said: “In 2013, following public consultation on a series of budget options in light of deep cuts to our government grant, the council standardised parking charges across the borough.

“This brought charges in areas like Heswall, West Kirby and Liscard in line with charges already in place in Birkenhead town centre. This also allowed us to reduce some charges, and gave us a fairer system overall.

“We are currently developing a long term car parking strategy for the borough, and a scrutiny review is underway and will take on board all views.

“Car parking income helps to pay for our road maintenance work, repairing potholes and making our roads safer. The income the council receives from car parking charges is reinvested in maintaining the highway network and keeping traffic moving.”

A petition has attracted more than 3,000 signatures and will be presented to Cllr Phil Davies, leader of Wirral Council. It is available to sign in many shops around Heswall.