FREE car parking at the multi-storey in Trowbridge is under threat, amid fears it could be sold.

The owners of the adjoining Castle Place shopping centre have approached Wiltshire Council, interested in buying it, and on Tuesday night town councillors were split about the scheme.

A legal covenant, that says the car park must be kept free for the people of Trowbridge, would have to be broken if new owners wanted to charge to park on all levels there – currently most have free parking.

Cllr Graham Payne said: “The agreement was to provide the multi storey car park for 125 years to be free for all users. That must be maintained.We have always been told that the car park is the lifeblood of the commercial aspect of this town. Employees use the long stay and people staying in the Premier Inn.

“This is so important to the centre of Trowbridge but Wiltshire Council has let it wither on the vine since 2008. It has descended into its current state. The smell there is like a sewer, which I have brought up before, but that car park is fundamental to the success of this town.”

Tracy Parker, president of Trowbridge Chamber, said: “The car park is in need of TLC so the takeover is probably a good idea for the aesthetic of the town.

“The free parking is an asset that is utilised by workers and visitors alike, however With the cost of maintaining the multi-storey taken from the council budget perhaps free parking could be offered in the many other under-utilised facilities in the town, which would be a good compromise.”

Castle Place shopping centre and the car park was built on the former Trowbridge Market in 1974, in a deal which said parking there would be free for the townspeople for 125 years.

The covenant put in place then by West Wiltshire District Council states anyone running the car park could not: “Levy any charge whatsoever in respect of the parking of motor vehicles by members of the public.” It is not known if the owners of Castle Place would want to demolish and rebuild the car park, or if they would apply to have the covenant removed.

On Tuesday Cllr Deborah Halik said: “This shouldn’t happen unless substantial control over its use is kept by the town council to make sure it is used for the benefit of Trowbridge residents and not for the benefit of private developers.”

Cllr Diana King added: “It would be nice to have it knocked down provided there is some reasonable substitute. It is an eyesore.”

The sale of the land will be debated by Wiltshire Council’s cabinet on Tuesday(Nov 27). The council said: “The potential sale of the St Stephen’s Car Park would only be to the adjoining Castle Place shopping centre, which has expressed interest.”

Officers will enter into discussions with owners of the shopping centre to secure the best deal with the residents of Wiltshire.

Cllr Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for spatial planning, development management and strategic property, said: “Running, managing and holding assets is expensive and we continually review our assets to assess their ability to deliver our priorities. In this instance a

potential sale to Castle Place shopping centre may be able to bring much-needed investment to this car park and release funds for us to invest in key areas.”

Since 2009 Wiltshire Council has sold £70m worth of assets and invested the money in key services.

A further £30m of assets have been earmarked for sale by the end of 2020.