FREE parking in some of the car parks in Totton is set to be scrapped to net New Forest District Council around £80,000 per year, under new plans being drawn up.
Currently the town council pay an annual fee of £28,000 to NFDC to ensure the Civic Centre and Westfield Road car parks, which the district own, are free to motorists.
Although this covers the business rates, the district council claims it is losing out on income as well as needing money to cover maintenance, administration and enforcement issues.
The charges will come in on 1st January 2021 under plans in a report signed off by Cllr Edward Heron, NFDC’s cabinet member for planning and infrastructure.
The report stated: “No financial reimbursement has been received for the loss of parking income which would have been received since charges were introduced district-wide in 2003.
“The effect of this is that the district council have been subsidising these two car parks in Totton to enable that town to have free parking in the town centre. This arrangement is not available to other towns or parishes.”
The plan is to scrap all 20 long-stay spaces in the Civic Centre car park, which has 100 spaces in total, and change them to short-stay. It also proposes to change all 85 spaces in Winsor Road car park to short-stay. Short-stay parking would range from £1 for one hour and up to £2.50 for three hours.
In Westfield Road car park, the 40 current long-stay spaces would also be changed to a maximum of three hours. The remaining short-stay parking, around 150 spaces, would be charged at the same rates.
The remaining long-stay bays in Westfield Road would be charged at £3 for four hours, £4 for five hours or £5 for 20 hours.
Cllr Dave Hills, a Conservative member of the town council, said he was “disappointed” with the plans. He told the A&T: “Free parking has boosted trade in Totton and helped residents with their finances.
“The town council pay NFDC many thousands per year to keep the car parks free for local residents and visitors, so I’m disappointed that NFDC don’t want to continue this arrangement.
“I’ll keep pushing for a solution so that we can provide free or discounted parking for the people of Totton.”
Cllr David Harrison, a Lib Dem member of the town council, told the A&T: “On the one hand you want to provide spaces where people can easily park, near to community facilities and shops. Charging can help ensure that spaces are used effectively and not blocked by people keeping a car in a space all day.
“A big issue in Totton is that there is no railway station car park, so commuters do use town centre car parks as a means of ‘park and ride’. Stop them doing this and we end up with local residential roads being blocked and more pavement parking.
“I think the district council often gets it wrong by seeking to impose a consistent charging policy on towns which have very different circumstances.”
Changing spaces from long-stay to short-stay will encourage greater turnover of vehicles and create more parking opportunities in support of local businesses in the centre of town, the NFDC report said. It will also create a predicted total income of around £80,000.