Published: 13:18, 22 February 2021
| Updated: 13:24, 22 February 2021
The hope from drivers of electric cars that in future they may have been able to top up their vehicle's batteries for free in Maidstone car parks has been dashed.
At a recent meeting of Maidstone's council's strategic planning and infrastructure committee, members voted to offer free parking to all electric vehicles in its car parks and on-street parking bays.
But their decision went against the advice of parking services manger Jeff Kitson, who recommended offering drivers of electric vehicles only a 50% discount.
During the debate, Mr Kitson had warned councillors that offering free parking would mean the council would also end up subsidising drivers to charge their cars, since at present a single fee at any of the council's 18 electric vehicle parking bays covered both the cost of parking and the electricity.
What he said had been supported by the council's director of regeneration and place, William Cornell, who had also warned councillors before the vote: "We will effectively be paying people to park in Maidstone, by giving them free charging."
But the council has now clarified the situation: those using the charging bays will continue to be charged as at present.
Only those actually charging their vehicles will be allowed to park in the bays.
Concerns had also been expressed during the debate that making parking free could end up with the car parks being clogged with vehicles staying much longer than currently.
Cllr Dave Naghi (Lib Dem) had warned: "Drivers will be able to stop there 24/7."
But again the council has clarified that the free parking will be limited to the maximum length of stay already permitted - in short-stay car parks, that's four hours.
Although the parking for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will be free, the drivers will still have to register their parking via the council's Ringo system.
This is primarily so that council can monitor the use of the car parks by BEVs, but it will also mean that enforcement officers will know if a car exceeds the maximum permitted stay, and can then issue a fine.
In a further disappointment for electric vehicle drivers, the free parking will not now start on April 1 as planned.
A council spokesman said that because it had taken two meetings of the SPI committee to make their decision, there had been a delay.
The council is still hoping for a date later in April.
Electric vehicle drivers will be well advised to make the most of the opportunity when it comes, because it is unlikely to be a permanent offer.
Mr Kitson said free parking would not be sustainable for the council in the long run.
At present, a minuscule 0.52% of the 2million "parking events" the council currently hosted each year were from electric vehicles. Even so, the free parking will cost the council up to £12,960 a year in lost revenue.
But Mr Kitson said that with the Government banning the production of non-electric vehicles after 2030, the proportion of the electric vehicles using the town's car parks would inevitably rise and so loss of parking revenue for the council would also grow.
For more information on the council's electric vehicles charging bays, visit here.