COUNCILLORS will consider charging motorists for long-term parking in Totton due to a shortage of spaces.
The problem is particularly bad in the mornings, with many of the area’s free car parks full between 9am and 1pm.
The town council currently offers free car parking for a maximum of five hours at Testvale in Testwood Lane, which has 55 spaces, and at the war memorial car park off Salisbury Road, which has 101.
New Forest District Council is responsible for providing free parking at the civic centre in Salisbury Road, which has 95 spaces, as well as a further 30 at Eling Hill and 190 at Westfield Road.
Some of the town’s car parks are also privately owned by supermarkets and other businesses, which set their own time restrictions.
The town council held a special meeting to discuss the issue.
Town clerk Derek Biggs said the situation was “complex”, adding: “[Councillors] have indicated they wish to retain free short-term parking but will look with New Forest District Council at charging for long-term parking.
“There is still some discussion to take place though before any final decision.”
After the meeting Cllr David Harrison said: “No decisions have been made yet and everything will have to go before a full council meeting, but it’s probably no surprise that one of the next things that is likely to be cut could be free car parking in council owned car parks in Totton.
“Unfortunately, there are two things happening that are forcing a review of car park operations. One of them is to do with finances. The squeeze in council budgets means that councillors are looking at all areas of operations to make further and deeper cuts, or to increase income.
“The second element is that there are just too many cars and insufficient spaces to accommodate them all. We know that many people use free council car parks to park all day and sometimes commute into Southampton.”
He added: “I have always strongly believed that it is necessary for us to provide some free parking to assist local retailers. Start charging and some people will simply decide to go elsewhere. We will then see local businesses fail.
“On top of that, you have the problem that arises from introducing new charges in car parks – drivers start parking in nearby roads, often causing bother to residents or hazards at junctions.”
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