BUSINESSES will suffer if the borough council implements its plans to extend pay and display zones across the town, it has been claimed.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) wants to extend the hours it can charge motorists to park in some of the town's most popular shopping streets.

The authority wants to convert existing free parking bays in Oxford Road and Wokingham Road into pay and display zones.

However, businesses warned they could lose customers if the plans go ahead.

Responding to a consultation, one business owner in Oxford Road, said: "Business is very quiet and the introduction of pay and display would make trade even more difficult.

"Customers have already expressed they will shop elsewhere if parking charges is introduced."

Another response reads: "The proposed pay and display in Oxford Road will severely affect our business directly as we have drivers who require parking regularly. It is not fair on local businesses."

In Wokingham Road, shoppers can currently park for up to 30 minutes for free.

However, RBC announced it wants to scrap the free parking scheme, sparking a petition from nearby businesses.

The petition, which fetched more than 250 signatures, reads: "We feel it is unfair to charge people to use the shops and the 30 minute free parking is adequate.

"This petition has been signed by nearly 300 customers that use the café, post office, laundrette and others including ourselves.

"Putting parking meters in won’t solve the parking problems, all it will do is turn customers away from using the shops.

"We as small shops struggle at the best of times to compete with larger businesses, charging people will only make this harder."

The council announced the plans following further cuts to its shrinking budget.

Cllr Jo Lovelock, leader of the council, said recently: "Year upon year of underfunding of vital public services mean local councils continue to face increasingly unpalatable decisions in order to set a balanced budget which – unlike Central Government or NHS Trusts – we have to by law."

RBC's traffic management sub-committee will discuss the pay and display consultation at a meeting on Wednesday night and decide whether to recommend the plans be approved, rejected or amended.