NEW MILTON, Barton and Ringwood could be next for on-street parking charges, warn businesses fighting controversial proposals for Lymington town centre.
Traders have claimed Hampshire County Council plans to bring in more fees in communities around the New Forest, following consultation meetings with officials for the High Street scheme.
A critical email from Lymington Chamber of Commerce to members described the move, due in April next year, as a “done deal” with behind-the-scenes preparations already under way.
Following implementation in Lymington, Fareham and Lee-on-Solent, there were further plans “in the pipeline” for New Milton, Ringwood and Barton seafront, it claimed.
The chamber said: “They are presenting the scheme on the grounds of safety but we believe it to simply be a money-making exercise, although we have some doubts how effective it will be in that regard, once initial and running costs are factored in.
“This is not a pilot scheme, and since the HCC has no benchmark data against which to compare, any meaningful evaluation will be somewhat dubious.”
Local business owners fear that shoppers will be deterred by replacing the current one-hour free stay with a new system of 30 minutes free followed by up to two hours chargeable.
The chamber added: “It may be that the HCC does not intend to be deflected from their plans and if that is the case, we must make sure that they are held accountable for how they implement the scheme.”
The A&T asked HCC to confirm the claims and explain the proposed system for Lymington but it did not send a response.
HCC also intends to increase the prices for residents’ on-street parking permits, according to a letter seen by the A&T from Stuart Jarvis, HCC’s director of economy, transport and environment.
There are schemes for 17 streets across Brockenhurst, Hythe, Lymington, Lyndhurst, Ringwood and Totton with annual permits currently available for up to about £30.
The moves come as HCC prepares to take back management of on-street parking from New Forest District Council in April after NFDC refused a revised deal amid fears of extra costs.
Conservative-controlled HCC is aiming to cut £80m of spending by 2021, due to reductions in government funding.
The county council says its plan will actually boost footfall in Lymington by increasing turnover of spaces and reduce pollution from vehicles searching for somewhere to park. It said currently 150 cars a day were overstaying the free hour.
But local councillors, including county councillor Michael White, are furious with the proposals and have lobbied New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne to intervene. Traders have promised a petition to show the scale of opposition.
In New Milton, however, local county councillor Mel Kendal said he was not opposed to the principle of on-street parking in his town but he wanted “value for money”.
Any plan would require full consultation to satisfy traders, he added, and should avoid extra street furniture and make payment as simple as possible.
Cllr Michael Thierry, who represents Ringwood, doubted there were enough on-street parking spaces there to make it practical and predicted residents would simply park elsewhere.
He said: “In essence I do not think it would be effective. The people who would pay for it would be visitors. Local residents know full well there is ample parking elsewhere in Ringwood at the Furlong, Waitrose, Blynkbonnie and Greyfriars.”
Both county councillors called for the NFDC parking clock to be expanded to cover charging for on-street spaces.
HCC has not published details of how the scheme would work, but Lymington Chamber of Commerce said officials had indicated the charge would be £1.10 an hour, with parking enforcement by private company NSL.
Charges would apply Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm. There would be roadside ticket machines every eight to 10 parking spaces, which would not be marked. Payment would be by cash or contactless card, or by using the RingGo app.
A formal consultation is expected to launch next year.