Luton Council's chief executive got a hostile reception from business owners angry at cuts to parking spaces, during a trip to High Town.
Robin Porter had been visiting the conservation area along High Town Road last week after business bosses said plans to significantly reduce their parking spaces for a new housing development would drive away customers.
Estate agent Mohammed Shahid said Mr Porter was faced with some angry shopkeepers.
"It was extremely hostile," he said. "Business people feel very let down."
He has now launched a petition in the area calling for the council to rethink its plans to remove 28 public parking spaces, which businesses fear will drive away customers who can't park. Traders will be left with just 12 places for themselves and customers they say.
"We were not consulted on the plan," he said. "We were all taken by surprise.
"Every single business was shut down during the lockdowns and some are barely surviving. The loss of parking is shutting a lifeline off, they are going to go out of business."
Mr Shadid said since the parking spaces were removed to cater for a new flats development, there has been chaos on the road, with people parking on yellow lines or on the pavement.
"The parking has been here for 45 years," he said. "We are all having to find somewhere else to park. The chief executive witnessed some of the chaos in the area with people parking on double yellow lines."
Dorota Bodniewicz lives and works in High Town and said: "It's ridiculous what's happened here. They are literally killing businesses as customers struggle to park. They are just killing the area.
"The council is just keeping their fingers crossed that we will get used to it."
The petition states: "Luton Borough Council has failed to properly consider the impact of the loss of these parking facilities and has not made any proposal as to alternate parking arrangements.
"The process of construction has already started and it is progressing quickly. This will severely reduce the level of on-street parking within the area, but will also remove the vast majority of long-term parking within the retail area of High Town Road.
"This long-term parking is relied upon by both local residents and people who work in the High Town area businesses and shops. This change will also impact people with mobility issues and parents with prams who again rely on being able to park closer to the shop or business they are visiting."
And it calls on the council to rethink the situation. "We ask that the High Town Councillors and Chief Executive of Luton Council reconsider LBC’s decision and retain this vital resource of parking on the High Town Rd/Brunswick Street. Alternatively, to allocate an appropriate number of spaces to account for the displacement in the local area (High Town Road, Brunswick Street and Back Street) within an equal distance as is the current Brunswick Street Car Park."
A council spokesman said: "The council is committed to investing in redundant sites throughout Luton to meet the needs of locals. In High Town in particular we have recently invested £275k in improved street lighting and additional money to facilitate public realm improvements at the junction of High Town Road and Burr Street.
"The new High Town development provided by Foxhall Homes on the former Taylor Street car park, will enhance the area and provide large family homes, which are in short supply in Luton. There will be 23 houses for private sale and nine homes for affordable rent.
"As part of our aim to make Luton a carbon neutral town by 2040, we are committed to encouraging the use of local facilities that can be easily accessed by walking or cycling and believe this development will benefit retailers in the area as it will bring new shoppers to the locality.
"Once the current work is completed there will be 12 spaces for use by the public, accessed from Brunswick St and the 27 spaces, accessed via Back St, for private parking.
"There are further pay and display car parks on Wenlock Street and Hitchin Road which are a few minutes’ walk away. There is a full bus service and a mainline train station within 0.2 miles.
"We continue to work and engage with local businesses, not just in High Town but over the whole of Luton, to achieve our Luton 2040 aim of having a town where everyone thrives and no one lives in poverty."
What's your view on the situation? Email [email protected]