THE income being raked in by Wiltshire Council from parking charges has risen by £2.8million since 2010, according to figures just released.

The news comes as a major national study links inflated parking charges to the decline of the high street, and three more shops in Salisbury city centre fall victim to the current economic climate.

Figures obtained by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) last week show that Wiltshire Council received £3,945,000 from parking in 2011/12 compared to £1,078,000 in the previous year.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said the income from parking has been the same over the past few years, and the figures don’t reflect accounting adjustments.

He added that the figures for 2010/11 represent an audit of the car parks’ rateable value, which fell by £3million, which makes it look as though there has been a substantial increase.

He said: “We are waiting to see a full copy of the document, but we understand the report finds no conclusive evidence parking charges are responsible for the decline of city centres.”

But Helen Stretch, pictured below, who is closing her store Nursery Rhymes in The Maltings after 21 years, says the parking charges were “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“I think most people go shopping in Southampton and we’ve handed it to them on a plate,”

she said. “The council is making no effort at all to help and it’s hard enough as it is.

“We were carrying on all right then it took a nose dive and it was too much to take.”

The store will remain open from until January 26.

Graham Gould, from Salisbury City Centre Management, said Salisbury can’t compete with other towns and cities in terms of the number of shops due to its size “but we can certainly compete on other levels such as attractiveness”.

He said shops close for a “number of reasons” and there is still confidence in Salisbury, although some business owners firmly believe parking charges are having a major impact on business.

But he added: “Parking charges need to be reduced so we can compete.”

Wiltshire Council increased all-day charges in city centre car parks from £4.20 to £7.40 in April 2011 and abolished the one-hour rate. The Journal’s Show Some Sense campaign to urge a rethink saw 7,000 people sign-up in support and resulted in the onehour band being reinstated, but the council refused to lower the all-day charge.