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‘We have no choice but to hike parking charges in Canterbury district’

A council is seeking the public’s views on proposals for “radical” parking fee hikes amid mounting financial woes.

Canterbury City Council (CCC) says financial pressures mean “we have to raise car parking charges, there’s just no way around it.”

The council was previously accused of cashing in on the popularity of Whitstable
The council was previously accused of cashing in on the popularity of Whitstable

Last week, the authority revealed motorists throughout the district could be charged £2 more an hour for staying in council-run car parks.

It comes after the Labour - Lib Dem coalition announced last week its planned budget for 2024 - 2025, including changes to council-owned car parks.

Experts at the authority recently calculated the UK’s rise in inflation means it has to plug a £ 1.9 million black hole.

The parking increase, set to raise over £1 million in extra revenue, will see some of the district’s coastal car parks in Whitstable and Herne Bay increase in cost by up to £2.10 an hour.

At a meeting of the authority’s cabinet on November 6, cabinet member Cllr Alex Ricketts (Lib Dem) explained the reasons for the changes.

“I think we entered this process, and I certainly did, not wanting to put prices up,” he said.

“Nobody in their right mind, particularly somebody who has any hopes of being elected again, wants to put parking prices up and that was the position that we started from.

“Unfortunately the realities of the budget as you will hear later on mean that we do need to do this, the situation is with CCC’s finances – parking is one of our major income sources, it’s also a significant cost in and of itself to keep that running.”

William Street Car Park, Herne Bay.Picture: Tony Flashman FM4315335
William Street Car Park, Herne Bay.Picture: Tony Flashman FM4315335

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Mike Sole (Lib Dem) added later on that parking is “about a quarter of our income.”

“With the council’s costs running significantly higher with inflationary pressures and being committed to previous expenditure and high interest rates we have to raise car parking charges there’s just no way around it,” he added.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) previously revealed that CCC makes more cash on parking than any other Kent council - taking in £45 million between 2017 and 2022.

Councils have the power to change their parking rates for four years at a time, or only for one - with CCC choosing the latter and planning to possibly change them again next year.

“There are some radical changes in here, we want people to feedback on this and we also want to watch very closely how these things work over the course of the next year and give ourselves the opportunity to then consult with the public again,” Cllr Ricketts said.

Previously only Canterbury’s car parks were split into bands that dictated the tariffs charged, but to “make it easier” for motorists it is proposed sites in Herne Bay and Whitstable are included.

Cllr Mike Sole
Cllr Mike Sole

The number of car parks in Band One - the priciest - would increase from two to nine, with the council proposing an hourly rate of £3.70 for them all.

For Canterbury’s two busiest sites - Watling Street and Queningate - this represents only a 20p rise, but for the other seven the hike is between £1.20 and £2.10 an hour.

Five of them are in Whitstable, with the largest increases proposed at the town’s biggest car park, Gorrell Tank, and nearby Keams Yard, which currently cost £3.10 an hour between April and September and £1.60 the rest of the year.

The council wants to ditch seasonal tariffs, which are seen as a tourist tax on summer visitors, leaving residents facing an all-year-round rate of £3.70

Cllr Alex Ricketts is the Cabinet Member for Tourism, Movement and Rural Development at Canterbury City Council
Cllr Alex Ricketts is the Cabinet Member for Tourism, Movement and Rural Development at Canterbury City Council

It would mean motorists enjoying a three-hour stay today for £4.80 having to instead fork out £11.10 - a rise of 130%.

Cllr Ricketts went on: “Those which are the most expensive car parks which I think people would understand – like Watling Street.

“They’re going to be the car parks in areas that are the most congested, that cause the most pollution, and we would like to discourage people from driving into our population centres causing pollution and causing congestion, and the easiest way to discourage people from doing that is by putting the price of car parking up.

“To balance this we will have the bands beneath that – bands two and three, where the residents’ rate applies.”

In a quarter of the district’s car parks, it will be cheaper for residents to park than for visitors by about 10%.

In the summer the coalition approved the reopening of the Sturry Road Park & Ride site, mothballed by the previous Conservative administration, to the tune of about £232,500.

“Part of the reason it’s so expensive now is reopening something that’s been mothballed costs a lot more than if we had actually maintained it and kept it running,” Cllr Ricketts said.

“We don’t want to catch people out with these different charges, we want people to know where the cheaper car parks are, we want people to know that it’s incredibly cheap to park in the Park & Ride.”

Parking at the council’s Park & Ride sites costs £4 for visitors, but under the proposals will be £3.20 for residents.

At the same meeting, the council also approved consulting the public on its new budget, when Cllr Mike Sole explained that due to inflation the council’s costs have increased by £1.9m simply to provide the same services they currently do.

The consultation on parking fees and the budget is set to start on November 13 and will last until January 8 - with residents able to give feedback to the council online.

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