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Dover District Council’s parking hike climbdown after fierce backlash

A council has backed down from hiking a village’s parking fees after being bombarded with 200 objections.

Dover District Council hoped to usher in a new levy on St Margaret’s Bay as part of a wider scheme to cash in on the district’s motorists.

Cllr Rebecca Simcox
Cllr Rebecca Simcox

However many living in the parish recently mounted a fierce backlash prompting the authority to drop the proposals on January 15.

The district council’s cabinet ruled it would instead conduct a wholesale review of its parking policies - a move welcomed by parish council chairwoman Rebecca Simcox.

Under the scheme, free car parks in The Street in Ash, Eastry High Street, Wingham High Street and Reach Road in St Margaret’s were set to cost £1.80 an hour.

Speaking before the meeting, Cllr Simcox said: “We haven’t got lots of off-street parking - this village was designed a long time ago, we had horse and carts then,” she added.

“It’s chaos and congestion when people are parking all the way down one road.”

She claims a price hike would drive people away from the pub, post office and village shop - and make it less viable for staff to work there.

Arguing the new charges could severely damage the post office, Cllr Simcox claimed: “We will lose the heart of the village.

“What we're fighting for is village survival.

“It sounds over exaggerated but part of the village is under attack here,” she added.

“Over Covid the post office and the village shop saved us.

“They really looked after everybody in the village, and if this parking charge goes through it could kill them.”

Cllr Simcox said she believes the vociferous public reaction forced the district council to rethink its plans and “saved the day.”

She argues that residents would simply not park in the Reach Road lot, and instead park up along the busy thoroughfare Sea Street.

St Margaret's car park
St Margaret's car park

Two other previously free car parks - Borrow Pit near Walmer Castle and Victoria Park in Deal - were planned to start costing, but this was scrapped as well.

However, some of the planned hikes are set to stay - with nine car parks throughout Dover town centre, set to cost 20p per hour more from April 2024.

The Albany Place car park will remain the cheapest - rising from £1.30 an hour to £1.50.

However, eight other car parks in the town - at Camden Crescent, Ladywell, Maison Dieu, Norman Street, Pencester Road, Stembrook and Woolcomber Street - will see hourly rates jump from £1.60 to £1.80 an hour.

It comes after the previous Conservative administration already increased fees from £1.30 an hour to £1.60 in April 2022.

Robin Burkhardt who runs the Old Curiosity Shop on Snargate Street, says: “The town of Dover is slowly being closed down.

“The increase in parking is another nail in the coffin for small independent traders in this town.

“Add the car parking fee increase to the EES coming in October then you may as well hang a big sign just outside Dover saying CLOSED.”

The EES refers to the Entry/Exit system - new border checks to enter the EU from the UK - predicted to cause chaos in the coastal town.

The council was also planning to introduce a £250 fee to apply to get a disabled parking bay marked outside homes - whether or not the application is successful.

Cllr Charlotte Zosseder
Cllr Charlotte Zosseder

DDC would have been one of the only local authorities in East Kent to charge for disabled bay applications - with, Thanet, Folkestone & Hythe and Canterbury councils all doing it for free.

Thanet District Council charges £250 - the maximum allowed by the County Council - but only to install the bay if an application is successful, not just to apply.

Chrissie Dubber, chairwoman of Deal Speaking Up Group, said: “I don’t think that’s right at all.”

Mrs Dubber, who is wheelchair-bound herself, added: “Not everybody who needs it could afford to pay, so no I don’t think that’s right.

“I think they should let the people apply and then if the people that apply need it, then maybe charge it then if they're actually going to have it.

“Them paying all that money and not even getting it I think that is utterly and totally wrong.”

DDC’s report however argues that the fee “will aid in covering the costs of the implementation of these bays and to deter non-eligible applications.”

However, at the cabinet meeting on January 15, DDC also rowed back on that idea.

Cabinet member Cllr Charlotte Zosseder (Lab) proposed to the cabinet that the flat 20p increase in costs remain, but all the other changes be cancelled subject to a full review of parking in the coming months.

“We do need to ensure that a review’s going to be carried out comprehensively, and covering absolutely everything,” she said.

“While we continue to face financial pressures, and need to make difficult decisions, it is important that we continue to listen to the needs of local communities and what people are telling us.

“The parking review will give us a great opportunity to consider all sides of this and to consider and balance options going forward.”

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