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Council plans end to free parking in Aylesford and Larkfield

A raft of changes to car park charging is due to be considered by councillors next week.

The plans follow a review of all 46 council-owned car parks in Tonbridge and Malling. If approved, the scheme will go out to public consultation later this year.

The Angel Car Park in Tonbridge. Charges may be extended till 8pm and Sunday included
The Angel Car Park in Tonbridge. Charges may be extended till 8pm and Sunday included

It was prompted by the need to meet rising operating costs which have grown by an average of 10% in the last two years

The borough now spends £320,00 a year maintaining the car parks and must pay a further £295,00 a year in business rates.

The report suggests that three car parks and two on-street parking areas which are currently free to use should have charges introduced.

They are the two Bailey Bridge car parks in Aylesford, and the car park in Martin Square, Larkfield, plus on-street parking in Swan Street and the High Street in West Malling.

It is suggested the new charges would start at 60p for half an hour, rising to £3.80 for four hours.

The Bailey Bridge Car Park in Aylesford
The Bailey Bridge Car Park in Aylesford

A schedule of the proposed charges can be found here.

It is estimated that the combined annual income would be in the region of £130,000.

A second suggestion would see the pay and display bays in Avebury Avenue, Tonbridge, which currently make a loss, switch to permit parking.

Councillors will also be asked to extend the charging period for car parks from 6pm to 8pm.

At present, Sunday and Bank Holiday parking is free. That too could change.

The council also wants to add extra spaces.

The council needs to raise more money
The council needs to raise more money

Some will be at Tonbridge Castle next year after KCC closes its Gatway Service there, with visitor spaces switched to pay and display. In the longer term, the council plans to spend £180,000 creating more spaces in the Upper Castle Fields car park.

The council will also introduce automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology in some car parks, which it believes will both save staff costs and increase compliance.

Cllr Martin Coffin (Con), the cabinet member for transformation and infrastructure, said: “‘Many residents who must pay for parking have questioned why elsewhere in our borough it’s provided free.

“These changes will see a fairer and more consistent charging regime apply across our car parks so that the cost of delivering this service is shared more equally among users. “

“Where we have introduced charging in the past, we’ve found that there’s more turnover in use of spaces, leading to increased footfall in the local shops and facilities.

Cllr Martin Coffin
Cllr Martin Coffin

“We also must continue to make sure our parking income can meet the cost of providing the service.

“While we haven’t increased charges for two years, our running costs have risen significantly.

“Extending the periods when charges apply will help ensure we have high-quality car parks for residents and allow us to invest in creating additional capacity where it is needed.”’

The proposals will be debated by the council’s Communities and Environment Scrutiny Select Committee on Thursday, September 21, at 7.30pm in the council chamber at Gibson Drive, Kings Hill.

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