Sedgemoor District Council has this week said that supermaket Asda does not legally have to provide 24 parking spaces in its car park for residents living near its Highbridge store.

The comments come after we first reported here last week that Asda has introduced a two-hour maximum stay in its car park for customers. Signs installed state that the car park is a “customer-only car park for use only whilst shopping in store.”

Asda has employed a contractor, ParkingEye Limited, to use number plate recognition cameras to monitor use and issue £70 fines to motorists breaking the rules.

But local residents say they rely on the car park due to a lack of local parking spaces in Highbridge town centre, with nearby side roads already full.

Residents had hoped a formal planning letter dated April 2006, would prove their claim that Asda should provide spaces for residents. The letter indicates that “24 spaces will be available for the residents of Church Street and adjoining areas”.

However, Sedgemoor District Council spokesperson Paula Barber has said this week: “An aspirational statement made on a letter which includes a mention of allowing 24 spaces to be left over for residents of Church Street ‘and surrounding areas’ – which could mean a number of roads – was never backed up by a planning condition, probably because it would be nearly impossible to police or administer.”

“So the statement has no status in planning law and one can only rely on the goodwill of Asda if they wish to honour this aspirational statement.”

“There is no basis in planning on which we could use our enforcement powers in this instance I regret. I hope that the residents and Asda can come to a practical and reasonable solution to this matter.”

An Asda spokesman told “Our aim is to make shopping with Asda as easy as possible, so to ensure that all of our customers have access to a parking space when they visit our Highbridge store, we have recently introduced a two hour parking limit. For those customers who need a little more time to finish their shop just need to let one of our colleagues know.”

Highbridge councillor John Parkes told “I have been contacted by many residents who are rightly furious that these restrictions have been introduced without any proper consultation.”

“The new rules have suddenly been brought in with no regard for residents which, given that Asda claims to be a community-minded organisation, are shocking. To say that residents are fuming is an under statement.”

John added: “I have been in contact with Sedgemoor District Council to clarify the position for residents who have previously parked in the Asda car park for several years.”

“I have seen a letter stating that there is ‘no legal requirement’ for Asda to provide parking spaces for residents, but the district council negotiated with Asda for it to provide some spaces several years ago.”

“Given that Church Street is mainly double yellow lined and side roads are already filled with parked vehicles, this is a real problem for the town.”

“Asda’s new restrictions appear to have been a knee-jerk reaction to residents using the car park without any thought of the follow-on consequences for the local community.”

Local residents have criticised Asda on social media for the decision.

Jane Lee said: “Where exactly is there anywhere for Highbridge residents to park if they cannot park outside where they live.”

Local resident Tess Prodger added: “When we moved in five years ago I spoke to the store who said it was no problem to park there.”

Another resident, Laura Cooper, adds: “I’ve been in Asda and spoke to the manager. The car park is owned by Asda, not the council, and they said due to cars being dumped and left in the car park untaxed they have installed the cameras. I asked what about residents and he said that they can’t park there overnight anymore from when the cameras are turned on.”