By Local Democracy Report Trevor Bevins
INCREASED car parking charges, which have been agreed without consultation by Dorset Council, may yet be reversed.
An increasing number of councillors say the new charges will hit the local economy hard at a time when it needs help and want a review of the decision.
The changes, due to come into effect in the New Year, will double the daily fee in some areas and extended parking charges across the area from 6pm to 8pm, as well as introduce charges on Sundays for the first time.
An announcement about the changes was made in a news release less than 24-hours after a full meeting of the council when the changes were not mentioned at all.
Since then business leaders, town and parish councillors and other groups have complained about the way the decision was made and announced.
Dorset councillors meeting on Monday said the new charges would result in drivers touring the streets, adding to pollution, to find places to park for free.
They also said that the new evening charge, to 8pm, and the new Sunday charge, would put people off visiting local pubs, cafes and restaurants. Others said low paid workers would simply not be able to afford the new charges.
Council chairman Val Pothecary admitted that there was hardly a councillor who was not unhappy about the decision: “The way it has been sprung on councillors is unsettling… there has hardly been a councillor who didn’t have a bit of a wobble on this one,” she told an online meeting of the place and resources overview committee.
Committee chair Cllr Daryl Turner, who represents Lyme Regis, has called for a rapid review of the policy and the way it was made without any consultation. He said the way the decision was announced was “wholly wrong” and he also called for a full report on the implications of the changes.
All of those who spoke at the meeting were unhappy – Cllr Les Fry said he believed it would add to on-street parking problems in Dorchester; Cllr Pauline Batstone said the new charges would hit pubs and restaurants in Sturminster Newton and other north Dorset towns; and Cllr Roland Tarr warned the policy would increase the number of cars parking in residential streets and driving around to find free spaces leading to ‘absolute chaos.’
Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope said he worried about the resort’s night economy
“It will have a real impact on the growth of our towns and recovery after Covid, especially the later parking charge,” he said.
The meeting also heard that other parking changes were being actively considered by a small committee of councillors and officers.
Lead councillor for highways Cherry Brooks said that group had been given the remit to look at harmonising parking charges across the county – which currently varies from £9 a day in some Weymouth car parks, to £2 a day at Lyme Regis.
She said at the moment the view within the group was that harmonisation probably would not be effective but that work had not been concluded.
Cllr Brooks added that the group had been told that there was no need for consultation on the changes which had just been announced and that there was a need to claw back some of the parking fees which had been lost as a result of the pandemic.
Dorset Council-owned car parks in Lyme Regis include Holmbush, Charmouth Road, Cobb Gate and Broad Street (Van Allens) car parks.