BUSINESS owners are fearing the worst as coaches look set to be banished from Bourton.

The number of coach parking bays at privately-owned Bourton Vale car park has more than halved this year, with just eight remaining.

Next year,  businesses say there will be no coach parking provision at all, leaving cafes and shops in the village concerned for their future and calling for Cotswold District Council (CDC) to act.

Sarita Tapper, 54, has run Chestnuts Fashion Fix for 32 years, with her family having owned businesses in Bourton since they moved there in 1981.

She said: “It is going to kill us.

“We rely on the coaches.

“It is not feasible, we can’t survive like this.

"The CDC need to provide some form of coach parking."

Cotswold Journal: Sarita and her family have lived in the Cotswolds since 1981Sarita and her family have lived in the Cotswolds since 1981 (Image: Sarita Tapper)

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Mrs Tapper explained that coaches are also having to pre-book parking, which she believes has led to many companies boycotting the village.

Her worries are shared by 56-year-old Tracy Watt, who took over Gift Times last September with her husband Charlie.

She says that around 20 per cent of her business comes from people who travelled in by coach.

“It would appear the council’s policy is to discourage coaches from coming to the Cotswolds, which is really sad,” she said.

“It doesn’t make any sense from an environmental or business point of view.

“There are people who have been coming here for 30 or 40 years and they wouldn’t think of coming in any other way than on a coach.”

Cotswold Journal: Tracy and Charlie Watt took over Gift Times last SeptemberTracy and Charlie Watt took over Gift Times last September (Image: Tracy Watt)

Also concerned is Chantelle Whitelegg, 31, who owns Chestnuts Tea Room and Once Upon a Candy Shop alongside her husband Joe.

She said: “I am seriously worried about what’s going to happen when we have no coach parking.

“We used to have 25 to 30 coaches coming each day, that’s a lot of people we are going to lose.

“50 per cent of my turnover is from these coach trips.

“Not only will it affect our business but it will force more cars to come to Bourton, causing chaos on the roads.

“Without the coaches, there will be a lot of boarded-up shops and cafes.”

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Cotswold Journal: Around 20 per cent of business at Gift Times comes from coach tripsAround 20 per cent of business at Gift Times comes from coach trips (Image: Tracy Watt)

The British Independent Retailers Association works to support over 6,000 independent business across the country, including many in Bourton.

CEO Andrew Goodacre is hoping the council reviews the current plan to cut coach parking.

He said: “It is hard to imagine why anyone would want to stop people visiting an area.

“After two years of Covid and 12 months of a cost-of-living crisis, the last thing a local business needs is yet more restrictions on footfall and visitors. 

“We cannot see any justification in someone wanting to gate-keep an area which should be accessible to all.

“Places such as Bourton on the Water should be inclusive, instead of going down an exclusive approach that you can only visit if you are lucky enough to own a car.

“This is yet another blow to independent businesses who are trying to make a living.

“On behalf of all independent businesses, we hope the council sees the error of their ways and reviews and reverses the decision.”

A spokesperson from Cotswold District Council said it is continuing to explore options, but has not yet been able to find a "practical" solution.

“While it is wholly the decision of a private business to change their operations, since learning of their decision the district council has been proactively working with the local community and stakeholders, including Bourton Business Network representatives, to look at options for the future," the spokesperson said.

"We have explored alternative sites and different arrangements but so far none have been found that would be practical. This work will continue over the coming months as we explore all avenues.

“We have also been liaising with tour operators to try and manage the reduced capacity now offered by the private car park operator.”