A GROUP of Dumbarton businesses claim they are in danger of going to the wall because council workers who have moved into new offices are using a car park that traditionally has been used by their customers.

Kirsteen Williamson, who is part of the family-run business Gee’s Carpets, based at Unit 11, Bell Arcade, High Street, is one of several who claim they have been a victim of a drop in footfall since the move of the council offices to Bridge Street began in August.

Others, she claims, who have been feeling the pinch, are a florist, a tattoo artist, a jeweller, a butcher and a record shop.

“The impact has been so bad that two shops have already closed down since their move because of the fall off in trade,” added Kirsteen. “We have lost an antiques dealer and a shop which sold electrical goods, light bulbs and purses.”

The carpet shop owner claims the downturn in trade is all due to a lack of parking spaces around the Bell Arcade, and that they have been swamped by cars belonging to council workers in spaces previously used by both the traders and their customers.

“We are all small, family run businesses and struggling to make ends meet. There are only about 55 parking spaces and I reckon there are now between 150 and 200 council workers moved into the new offices. The impact has been horrendous on our trade. We rely on customers and passing trade. We still need Joe Bloggs off the street. There is a new car park being built at the opposite end of the street, but that will provide nowhere near enough the spaces we need. The situation is only going to get worse.

“The only ones who are protected are the Credit Union, who have their own designated spaces and they are cordoned off, Other spaces are supposed to be for two hours only, but nobody ever checks them.

“Council vans park on double yellow lines and park on the pavement and even block cars in. It took me 25 minutes to get a parking space one day last week.

“I have emailed council leader Jonathan McColl several times and got three responses, but nothing has changed. If anything it’s just getting worse.”

A 195-space car park is being developed at the rear of the building, including 10 accessible car parking spaces and 10 spaces for electric vehicles. In addition to this, storage for 80 bikes will be provided and the council has been developing a Green Travel Plan to promote healthier and cost-effective ways of commuting.

The new building will bring savings in the region of £400,000 per year compared to maintaining the current office estate.

Earlier this year, nearly 300 council staff moved from Garshake to the refurbished Bridge Street offices in Dumbarton. In addition to that, the renovated Municipal Buildings in Station Road are set to accommodate the elected members from Garshake, with the move planned for this month.

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesman said: “The council has relocated 300 staff to Bridge Street and is set to bring a further 500 employees to the new Church Street office as part of a wider plan to regenerate Dumbarton town centre.

“This will increase footfall and significantly contribute to the economic activity in the town, benefiting all local businesses.

“In addition to the parking at Bridge Street, we have encouraged staff to use Woodyard Road as an overflow car park. We are also promoting the use of greener alternatives including car share, public transport and cycle to work. The new Church Street location will have 195 car parking spaces.”

The council confirmed that all employees have been e-mailed and instructed not to use the car parking at the Bell Arcade.

Councillor Jonathan McColl added: “To date, I have not received a request to meet with the Bell Centre traders.

“I fully support and understand their concerns and, should they ask to meet with me, I will be more than happy to do so.”

The transformation of the former Dumbarton Academy site into a modern and efficient town centre base is well under way, with support from a Historic Environment Scotland grant, ensuring this important façade is retained as part of Dumbarton’s heritage.

The project is on schedule to be completed later this year, with staff moving into the offices in early 2018.

The council plans to relocate 500 staff currently based at Garshake to the offices in a move that will also provide a catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.

It will also generate annual savings over the lifetime of the building compared to maintaining the current Garshake offices.

The new facility will include a public service desk area with a multi-use civic space, training and meeting rooms to the front, with a new office building to the rear.