PLANS for an extra 200 car parking spaces in Ramsbottom are being drawn up by Bury Council.

The new car park will be situated on land next to Ramsbottom Pool and Leisure Centre, off Stubbins Lane, and will more than double the existing number of spaces on council car parks from its current 180.

The council says the proposal is part of a wider car parking strategy for Ramsbottom, which will look at creating long-stay and short-stay car parking, along with residents-only parking zones.

The announcement will no doubt be welcomed by residents in the town, many of whom have raised concerns about a lack of parking in the area.

And results from a survey carried out by Conservative councillors two years ago showed that business owners believe the lack of parking is forcing visitors to seek alternative locations for shopping and leisure.

Ramsbottom's Conservative councillor Rob Hodkinson said he was pleased about the announcement, but added that he was 'disappointed' it had taken so long.

He said: "We have spent over three years lobbying senior officers and politicians at the council, having meetings and drafting plans to use the spare land adjacent to the Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre.

"The survey we undertook of local businesses in Ramsbottom town centre revealed that at least 280 employees required all-day car parking during the week. 190 required car parking at weekend.

"In addition, residents were parking in the town centre for free and getting the bus into Manchester or Bury.  Tourists have been parking up and leaving their cars in the town centre all day.  This has been forcing shoppers and many visitors out of the town centre. The lack of parking results in the lack of footfall in the town centre.

"It is obviously disappointing that it has taken nearly three years for these plans to be approved by our Labour-run Council.  During that time, businesses have gone under due to the lack of parking, residents have suffered due to the lack of on-street residents parking and events such as the Chocolate Festival suffered due to parking problems."

Cllr Kevin Thomas, who is also the deputy cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We all know that there is a shortage of public car parking in Ramsbottom, which affects local businesses, visitors, shoppers and residents.

“We’ve been looking at how best to solve this problem for some time, given the lack of land available and the costs, and these plans should go a long way to meeting local needs.”

The scheme will first have to obtain planning permission, and full costings drawn up, but it is hoped that initial work on the site will start this summer.

Council leader Cllr Rishi Shori added: “Ramsbottom has flourished in recent years, winning national acclaim for the variety and quality of its independent shops and restaurants. However, one side effect has been an increased demand for car parking near the town centre.

“We are determined to help the local economy prosper, and I’m sure local residents and businesses will welcome these proposals, which will be supported by a robust business case.”