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Residential parking fees could double as councils' agreement to end

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Hampshire County Council's HQ in Winchester
Hampshire County Council's HQ in Winchester

RESIDENTIAL parking costs could double for motorists across the New Forest as district council leaders agreed to pull out of an agreement with Hampshire.

The looming split follows the county council tightening up on its responsibility for managing parking operations as it seeks to fill a £140m gap in its finances by April next year caused by shrinking government funding.

Currently district councils, like the New Forest, have the option to administer on-street parking in their areas on behalf of HCC, which is the highways authority.

But in a bid to recoup maintenance and administration costs, last week HCC’s Conservative administration decided that from April 2020 all arrangements must meet their full costs and new conditions – or fall back under county control.

That means higher prices for administering residential parking, for example, which NFDC handles on 17 streets across Brockenhurst, Hythe, Lymington, Lyndhurst, Ringwood and Totton.

Currently annual prices per car vary between £25 and £31 – but HCC wants to have a minimum of £50 to avoid them running at a loss. The national average is £64, according to an HCC report.

Lymington has the most residential schemes with six in Belmore Lane, East Hill, Gosport Street, North Close, Southampton Road, and Station Street.

Hampshire’s new policy was rubber-stamped by Cllr Rob Humby, HCC’s cabinet member for Environment and Transport.

Further conditions include sharing surplus funds equally with HCC, seeking to install electric vehicle charging bays where there is paid-for on-street parking, and filing financial reports with HCC.

On Wednesday NFDC’s Conservative ruling cabinet reacted by describing the new arrangement as an “unacceptable financial risk” and agreed not to continue with the deal under the new rules.

Before the meeting Cllr Edward Heron, NFDC’s cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, told the A&T: “It would mean you’re relying on penalty charges to support various things, including county council costs such as painting double yellow lines.

“We have no idea how that will ramp up in the year. Building a business case based on people doing something wrong is not a very sustainable one.”

He also doubted there were enough roads in the New Forest suitable for on-street parking meter schemes to bring in extra revenue.

Pulling out of the parking agreement would also see NFDC handing back to HCC its delegated role handling highways management such as traffic regulation orders to temporarily block off roads for engineering or events.

Cllr David Harrison, leader of NFDC’s Liberal Democrat opposition group, warned after the meeting that the change could end up with residents paying more.

He said: “The district council doesn't have a statutory duty to carry out these functions, so it leaves the very real prospect of the county council having to do all the work locally, at a higher cost to the taxpayer.”

In the NFDC cabinet report, Cllr Heron commented “I regret the county council’s decision to terminate the current on-street parking enforcement agency agreement in 2020, as I believe that this council has provided an excellent and efficient service since 2002.”

Although keen to work closely with HCC, he concluded the proposed new agency agreement “represents an unacceptable financial risk to this council”.

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